Log in
Updated few hours ago

The fight to save Njeru stock farm from encroachers

Minister Bright Rwamirama (R) inspects Njeru stock farm land

Minister Bright Rwamirama (R) inspects Njeru stock farm land

The existence of Njeru stock farm, the animal genetics hub that serves eastern and northeastern Uganda, is under threat due to encroachment and land grabbing.

This has greatly affected its productivity to the millions of farmers that rely on it for livestock breeding stock and liquid nitrogen. It is from this concern that various stakeholders have joined forces to save and revamp it, writes Geofrey Serugo.    

On January 19, 2024, Internal Affairs minister Kahinda Otafiire stormed Njeru stock farm and ordered the arrest and detention of the farm manager, Dr Carol Wabule. Otafiire claims he bought 100 acres of the farm in 2011 and that government is trespassing on his land.

Much as Wabule was eventually released on January 22, the episode drew criticism from various stakeholders. Otafiire’s lawyers of Ahamya Associates & Advocates later issued a notice of eviction and demanded for compensation arising from the non-use of the land, amounting to $19m (Shs 72bn).

The incident was just the latest in a series of raids on the farm and created uproar in parliament as legislators demanded protection of the stock farm, which is a key agricultural genetics centre for the east and northeastern regions.

The Observer understands there are several other high-ranking government officials and companies that have taken advantage of legal loopholes to encroach on the land, whose title of 1,099 acres is only left with 540 acres for use. At the moment, government is embroiled in a number of court cases targeting the farm’s land.

However, Bright Rwamirama, the state minister for Animal Industry, is spearheading government’s resistance and he is hopeful to reclaim every piece of the land that has been grabbed.

“Otafiire’s claim is based on forgeries and falsehoods, and therefore, we refute any claims of ownership and compensation as alleged,” he says.

In a recent tour of the farm, he reiterated that government will do everything possible to reclaim all the land. Rwamirama is supported by Njeru town council officials and environmentalists. Ham Mukasa family are the original owners of the land who leased it for the creation of the farm in 1948.

During the tour, it emerged that there are several factories that were constructed on the farm’s land, most of which were guarded by soldiers.

“This once tranquil place is now being polluted by smoke emissions. These emissions are degrading air quality and are exposing the cattle to respiratory distress,” said a ministry official.

SNAG & LIFELINE

Last week, parliament gave prime minister Robinah Nabbanja two weeks to present a report on the matter. However, sources close to the matter have intimated to The Observer that the prime minister has so far made no headway after being rebuffed as a ‘nobody’ by some of the individuals who encroached on the land.

“At the moment, she seems powerless to stop the encroachers but if she uses the powers vested to her, she can force them to disperse,” says a source familiar with the situation.

However, The Observer understands that on February 5, Rwamirama took the matter to cabinet where President Museveni directed Attorney General Kiryowa Kiwanuka to investigate the alleged forgeries and make a report within 14 days.

WHY THE STOCK FARM?

The location of Bukaya village where the stock farm sits is a quiet, scenic view that overlooks the source of the Nile. It is ideal for all kinds of tourism and industrial activities as well as real estate development.

An acre in the area is said to go for Shs 500m and it is said that several bigwigs are already eyeing the land for their individual interests.

“That place is best suited for tourism activities such as Nyege Nyege, bird watching, tourist accommodation and water rafting, among others,” says a source who preferred anonymity.   

WHY GOVT CANNOT RELOCATE NJERU STOCK FARM

For starters, the farm hosts the nitrogen plant, whose production capacity of five litres per hour enables the continuous supply of animal semen for artificial insemination for the eastern and northeastern parts of the country.

The stock farm also remains the only source of Liquid Nitrogen to all the human medical hospitals and health centers in the regions. Njeru also hosts the national pig grand-parent resources centre unit, which includes a farm with more than 300 farmer-preferred high-performing pigs.

The unit promotes sustainable production of pigs in the greater eastern region for the purpose of supplying quality pigs and pig products to meet local demands and free more pork for export.

What’s more, the farm acts as the focal point and distribution centre for agro-enterprises under the Parish Development Model (PDM) to provide high-quality cows, pigs, goats and chicken for farmers in the region.

In fact, the recently-released auditor general’s report of 2022-2023 financial year applauded Njeru stock farm’s interventions through acquisition and utilization of superior breeds in crossbreeding and availing superior breeds to farmers for breeding.

“The stock farm has shown promising results in improving cattle, goat, and pig breeds in terms of productivity, size, growth rates, and other desirable traits. These advancements have the potential to significantly enhance food security, increase farmer incomes, and boost livestock productivity across Uganda,” reads part of the report by John Muwanga, the auditor general.

At the summit of the the stock farm lies a UPDF artillery detach that is charged with securing the Nile bridge. This means that the government has security interests on that farm.

BACKGROUND

Available records show that the farm’s 1,099 acres are on four different plots, which were all registered in the names of Ham Mukasa and later taken over by different descendant administrators.

It was leased to the governor of Uganda for 99 years effective in 1948 and government, through Njeru town council, has been a sub-leasee and occupant since 1967 to date.

All was well until 2000, when the Ham Mukasa family took government to court for failure to pay ground rent for more than 15 years. Rwamirama notes that whereas the ministry was paying the ground rent to Njeru town council, the latter was not remitting the same to the landlords [Ham Mukasa].

It was in that legal process that other people emerged to claim administration of the land.

“In 2009, Fredrick Kato Lukwajju emerged and claimed to be the administrator of the estate of the late Enoka Sebowa and obtained letters of administration granted by Justice Irene Mulyagonja at Jinja. He also applied for letters of administration from the High court to administer properties claiming that it belongs to the late Sebowa whereas not,” Rwamirama says.

“At around the same time, Christopher Lule also applied for letters of administration to administer the estate of the late Augustini Seruwo at the Jinja High court to administer properties claiming it belonged to the late Augustini Seruwo whereas not.”

It was from the two incidents that there emerged a spiral of sales by Lukwajju and Seruwo and whereas there are several cases still in court, many third-party land buyers, including Otafiire, claim they are bonafide purchasers.

Comments

+1 #1 Lakwena 2024-02-08 08:28
But, if it is not the sheer madness of greed and plunder of public properties; which government is trespassing on Otafiire's land, and since when did Ota acquire that land and from whom?

In other words, diabolic criminals do not have a conscience over what is right or wrong, true or false. good or evil.
Report to administrator
+1 #2 Kidepwe 2024-02-08 09:48
It's just a matter of time before Njeru Stock Farm, a national asset, is also wound up, into the private hands of our 1986 liberators and their children.

Stealing was always their method of operation, and their greed knows no limits and has no restraints. Uganda as a country no longer owns anything because, even the oilfields in Bunyoro or the mines in Karamoja and elsewhere, belong to one individual like this. How did we as country get here???
Report to administrator
0 #3 Kalibbala 2024-02-11 00:23
#Lakwena and Kidepwe ! People! Do not waste your Breath ! These Goons are called NRA/M (Notorious Robbers Army /Movement ) whose Sole Aim of Waging a War against Uganda and its Indigenous Folks was to ROB..Period! They begun with Slashing 30% on All Monies owned by
Ugandans thus Giving them 7.000K for 10.000!

38 Years Down the Road Everything Para State has been Confiscated by the Paper Tiger Generals and Their Relatives deeming Uganda a Personal Property!!..It might take Ugandans another 50 Years to reclaim their Country Back or end Up like Aborigines of Australia or Palestinians!
Report to administrator

Comments are now closed for this entry