Businessman, Abid Alam of Alam Group of Companies is to be arraigned in court soon to face murder charges after the commission of inquiry into land matters sent his file to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
According to the Catherine Bamugemereire led commission of inquiry commission into land matters, Alam is under investigation for possible prosecution for murder, assault and grievous harm, inciting violence, disobedience of lawful orders and unlawful destruction of property, among others, relating to violent evictions in Mubende district.
“To get to the bottom of the matter, joint investigations of the matter have since been launched by the police and the commission, supervised by the land crimes department in the office of the DPP,” a statement from the commission reads in part.
“It is therefore diversionary for anyone to claim that Mr. Alam’s arrest was politically motivated. It is the hope of the commission that the public, including those under investigations on land-related issues, should take the work and directives of the commission seriously.”
The commission's secretary, Olive Kazaarwe issued an arrest warrant for Alam to all police stations on November 8 after receiving information about his involvement on a disputed plot.
The disputed land measures about 12 square miles. it is located in Bukoba, Mubende district and was donated to some 350 World War ex-servicemen by the Queen of England through the Kabaka of Buganda in 1954, according to information before the commission.
Alam claimed that his subsequent arrest and detention at Wandegeya police station in Kampala was politically motivated.
“Somebody brought a lorry of innocent Ugandans, gave them pangas, guns and told them to go to a place called Bukoba and asked them to cut everything,” Bamugemereire said on Friday as she closed public hearings in Mbarara.
The commission received numerous complaints from families of ex-World War II servicemen who claimed they were being violently evicted from a large chunk of land in Bukoba by agents of Alam since 2006. They said they had peacefully lived on the land for over 50 years.
Commission investigators were dispatched to conduct preliminary investigations into the matter. The commission had the opportunity to visit the disputed land between September 11 and 14, 2017. Representatives of the about 2,000 affected residents of the disputed land and Alam appeared before the commission sitting in Mubende to give their sides of the story.
Based on the submissions by both parties during the public hearings, the commission recommended further inquiries before it could make its final findings and recommendations. Effectively, the commission gave a directive for the preservation of the status quo by both parties, pending finalization of commission investigations.
However, contrary to the directive, Alam visited the disputed land on October 31 and he reportedly told the area Local Council vice chairperson, Michael Kintu that he had been cleared by the commission to utilize the land. He further asked Kintu to tell residents to leave the camp or he would evict them forcefully.
On November 1, the commission received reports that Alam had returned with a group of about 20 strong men wielding clubs and machetes. They started clearing the area and also descended on a Catholic church structure under construction and razed it to the ground. Some people were injured in the ensuing scuffle.
On November 5, Alam led another group of more than 50 young men armed with machetes, clubs, iron bars to the Bukoba camp. The commission understands that Alam ordered the men to forcefully evict the residents and destroy their residences and personal belongings. A fight ensued and a number of people were injured on both sides.
During the Sunday scuffle, one of Alam’s private security guards lost a gun, but the residents reportedly took the weapon to their area deputy chairperson, Kintu, who later handed it over to security. The police was called in, but they arrived when the fighting had stopped and only focused on the recovery of the lost gun.
It is against that background that the commission on November 8 issued a warrant of arrest against Alam to be produced before the commission to answer charges of “obstructing the work of; and disregarding directives issued by the commission, resulting into his arrest on November 9.
Mubende police sent five files from its investigation about the violent incidents for review by the DPP. However, the DPP noted that the investigations had been poorly conducted and ordered further investigations.
The commission understands that the businessman has since been released on police bond, pending the further inquiries under the supervision of the DPP.