Ms Bazalaki Nakayiza retired in 1997 after years of toiling at the Uganda Grain Milling Company Ltd in Jinja.
With her savings and paltry gratuity, she settled at Kajjansi, then Mpigi District before Wakiso District was curved out in November 2000.
She acquired a plot of land in Birongo-Lweza zone, Mutungo Parish in Ssisa Sub-county.
Life went on uninterrupted until 2011 when strangers suddenly appeared on the land, which coincided with the mapping of the route for the Kampala-Entebbe Expressway (KEE).
That is when, according to Ms Nakayiza, she and other residents first heard of Jamada Musisi, a Kampala businessman, who had a keen interest in the land.
“Jamada [Musisi] came and said he had located his lost land. He did not bring a document, a land title, proof of ownership, nothing,” Ms Nakayiza said.
She said the locals sought help from government offices to protect their land from Mr Musisi and his Kikonyogo Investments but nobody came to their rescue.
“The late Felix Andrew Kaweesi (the former Assistant Inspector of Polic) even came here during our fight with Jamada and said until anyone else contradicts the current ownership, no one will evict us,” she said.
On July 19, 2020, under the cover of the pitch-black sky, police raided the village that touches the Lake Victoria marshland.
They fired teargas and live bullets, razed down houses and gardens as locals fled in disarray. Today the land is sealed off by a wall fence.
Construction of the KEE commenced in November 2012 at a cost of $476m (about Shs1.7 trillion) from China’s Export–Import (EXIM) Bank.
The 51.4km thoroughfare runs from Impala, on the old Entebbe road through the villages of Kajjansi/Ssisa and Kabojja to Busega, on the outskirts of Kampala where it connects from the Northern Bypass.
From Kajjansi, the road has a 14km spur route to Munyonyo: the villages of Kitiko-Birongo-Lweza, where Ms Nakayiza lives, lie within this stretch.
The prime land in question measures about 154 acres.
In survey documents, including cadastre maps, it is detailed as block 270 in Kyadondo—crown land.
A place of despair and trepidation
Ms Nakayiza and other residents, several of whom have lived on the land for more than 20 years, acquired their plots from Mr Mohammad Ssewaya, who claims this land was acquired by his grandfather in 1944.
Mr Ssewaya told Daily Monitor that Mr Musisi’s rightful land is block 538 in Busiro, which somehow intersects, with block 270.
“Jamada [Musisi] came from nowhere. I did not know him and no one in our family has an idea about him,” Ssewaya said.
“We have complained to every office but in vain. I have been arrested 29 times in an attempt to keep me away from counter-claiming the land. Every time I was arrested, I was taken to court with the files ready; the Magistrates just read the case and I was not even allowed to say a word and remanded.”
In a December 28, 1982 handwritten will, Manzi Kawansenyi, Ssewaya’s late grandfather detailed circumstances under which he acquired the land in 1944 and the several unsuccessful attempts to acquire a title from the seller who was a senior official in the Kabaka Daudi Chwa’s government.
He further indicated that for as long as he continued paying busulu (ground rent payable by a tenant on Kabaka’s land) his ownership of the land went unchallenged.
However, documents show, the land had been leased to a white family—Cissy Shorley, Frederick Stirman, and Frank Thomas Shorley—on November 28, 1933 for a period of 99 years, which will elapse in 2032.
The residents say they have been “terrorised” by police, which continues to “witch-hunt anyone putting up a spirited fight over the land.”
When this newspaper visited the site at the weekend, we found police guarding the fenced off area. None of the officers allowed to speak to us.
The locals believe that the person who owns the land is a powerful person who has rented security personnel to coerce the community.
One person familiar with the matter (who requested to remain anonymous) told this newspaper that plots have been allotted to senior officials in police, the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI), and the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF).
Attempts to get a comment from the commandant of police’s land protection unit, Mr Charles Mutungi, were futile as his phones were turned off while the spokesperson of police, Mr Fred Enanga, said he would talk to us later but by press time, he had not got back to us.
Mr Ssalongo Tabula says he has lived on the land his entire life so it is both “ridiculous and inconceivable for anyone to claim ownership when I am this old.”
“The place is like a barracks. The police never leaves and they were carrying around brand new guns. If it is the First Family as they claim what is so hard for any of them to come out and claim their prize then we will know it is the President who chased us away, and we would go away in peace,” Mr Tabula said.
Sam Lutwama, the former area local chairperson, says he first heard of Mr Musisi when he was feuding with a group of Indians “over a nearby plot”—ostensibly, block 537 referred to in numerous documents, including court records.
“They fought for a very long time with the Indians, and I think he (Mr Musisi) convinced the Ssewaya’s group to support him to chase them away. When he succeeded then he turned against them,” Mr Lutwama said.
He added: “So after taking over the Indians’ land, he is now using that block to claim that he owns the entire land. Because clearly one land (Block 270) is in Kyaddondo and the Indians’ land (block 537) is in Busiro.”
Attempts to get a comment from Mr Musisi were futile as he did not answer our repeated phone calls.
Land registry records show that ownership for block 537 has changed hands several times.
In July 2007, it was registered to UK lakeside Development Limited, in August 2009, it changed to Lakeside Township Limited, in August 2009 to Sam Engola, now the State Minister for Housing, in July 2010, it went back to Lakeside Township Limited, in August 2010, it changed to Mr Musisi’s Kikonyogo Investments, in January 2011 to city businessman Hassan Basajjabalaba’s Haba Group Ltd, and in August 2015 it went back to Kikonyogo Investments.
Ownership is opaque
The junior Lands minister, Ms Persis Namuganza, in an interview with Daily Monitor for a story published last Thursday described Jamada’s takeover of block 270 as both “illegal and criminal.”
“I have been following that wrangle and we even sent a government surveyor, who revealed that the land claimed by Mr Musisi is different from the one where the residents were settled,” Ms Namuganza said.
Available documents interchangeably allude to block 270 in Kyadondo and block 537 in Busiro. The contestation is now whether Jamada owns both, and if so, what exactly does Ssewaya’s group own.
The LC1 chairman, Mr Umar Lule, whom the residents accuse of “abandoning them and being in cahoots with their tormentors” declined to comment on the matter when contacted.
An August 2020 land surveying report, relying on the historical map and a field print from the Department of Survey and Mapping in Entebbe, commissioned by the Ssewayas detailed that block 270 is located on a crown forest and further lies within surveyed plots with numbers 102, 504, and 507.
However, when a search was made at the Ministry of Lands, Wakiso zonal office “there were no matching records for block 270 and plots 102, 504, and 507 Kyadondo.”
On the other hand, an August 2014 survey report commissioned by Kikonyogo Investments and Lakeside City Ltd for plots 102, 103, and 203 in block 537 detailed that data available in the land office did not correspond with the actual physical boundary existing on the ground.
The report indicated that the maps available did not properly orient to the physical location of the land on the ground.
“You find that the piece of land falls far away from the physical location affection of the areas of Lweza,” the survey report reads in part.
The two sides further took the matter to court. However, court records reference block 537 in Busiro as owned by Mr Musisi.
On June 15, 2020, the High Court issued an injunction against Ssewaya and others restraining them from claiming interest on blocks 537 and 532. Consequently, Kikonyogo Investments company wrote to the police directing them to enforce the order.
Mr Mutungi [police land protection] wrote to the Kampala Metropolitan Police commander on June 29, 2020, assigning the Kajjansi deputy police commander to among others deploy and “only read and explain the contents of the order to the parties, and not participate in any exercise.”
On June 26, 2020, Mr Mutungi wrote to the High Court Land Division seeking clarification on the court order issued.
The court registrar responded on July 6, 2020 confirming they issued it but said “it is not an eviction order.”
On the basis on the court injunction, the Uganda National Roads Authority (Unra) proceeded to advance part of the road compensation money to Mr Musisi.
“The order was in effect a consent from court that we proceed to pay,” Mr Allan Ssempebwa, the Unra spokesperson, said. “But there are three contestations; we cleared one, and for the remaining two with the two bibanja owners were applied to court for an interpleader (proceeding) to deposit the money in court as the issues are sorted out.”
In another twist, Ssewaya’s block 270 featured last year in the parliamentary Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE)’s probe in largely the dubious acquisition of property under the Department Asian Property Custodian Board (DAPCB).
In a June 2, 2020 letter, the DAPCB’s custodian, Mr Abdulhu Byakatonda, wrote to COSASE detailing that they had received a complaint on this property—block 270—and the parties feuding included Damanico properties, Kikonyogo Investment, Bexus International Ltd, bibanja holders, and government.
Bexus International Ltd was registered in 2014, Kikonyogo Investments was registered in 1999 and Damanico properties was registered in 1994.
On July 16, 2020, the COSASE chairperson, Mr Ibrahim Kasozi, wrote to the feuding parties inviting them to the committee hearings and further detailed that available documents show block 270 in Kajjansi was previously vested with DAPCB but “was meddled with during the process of repossession.”