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Judge: Most land grabs are by govt officials, soldiers

Preliminary findings of the ongoing inquiry into land matters have revealed “a worrying trend” of highly placed
individuals colluding to rob ordinary Ugandans of their land, the commission chair said on Tuesday.

Lady Justice Catherine Bamugemereire said the commission’s investigations have established a disturbing relationship between government officials, security personnel and politicians ganging up to evict locals from their land.

“This situation is critical and is a problem as far as customary land ownership is concerned,” Bamugemereire said yesterday at Boma hotel in Gulu municipality as the commission kicked off public hearings in the Acholi sub-region.

“In other districts, we observed that government officials, security agents and politicians are ganging up [on locals] and unlawfully evicting entire communities to create societies that are homeless,” she said.

Lands minister Betty Amongi (L) with Lady Justice Catherine Bamugemereire during the launch of the inquiry earlier this year 

Bamugemereire said information obtained from public hearings and investigations over the last six months majorly in Mubende, Wakiso, Masaka, Hoima and Jinja districts, shows that the situation in land management, registration and acquisition is worrying.

“We have also found that there is heavy encroachment in some places and depletion of protected areas such as forests, wetlands, and wildlife reserves. This encroachment is done with impunity and total disregard of the law and future of our country and we find this very worrying,” she said.

In those areas, she said, they have established cases of fraud in land registration including multiple titling, forgeries of letters of administration and court orders to illegally obtain registration, on top of outright forgeries of registration particulars.

The registration of one’s name onto a title should be conclusive evidence of their ownership of land in question. However, Bamugemereire said where multiple titling has occurred and outright fraud discovered, the existing system of registration will be rendered irrelevant.

LAND WRANGLES IN ACHOLI

Yesterday, the commission started their sessions by hearing from some of Acholi’s leaders. Martin Ojara Mapenduzi, Gulu LC-V chairman; Francis Barabanawe, the municipal town clerk; retired Supreme court Justice Galdino Okello, Richard Santo Apiire and Rwot Kweri [clan leader] of Atiak made presentations.

Apiire said land wrangling has spread throughout post-conflict Acholi as a result of more refugees pouring into the country from South Sudan.

“The war in Sudan didn’t start recently...so the black people in the southern part of Sudan had to flee and when they fled, we accommodated them in the various parts of Acholi,” Apiire said.

“But they have remained refugees. One man was registered as a refugee in Adjumani refugee camp. He started claiming land and unfortunately sold this land to Uganda Revenue Authority at a price of about Shs 600 million. We have objected to this and told URA aliens don’t own land.”

In the Acholi sub-region, land is predominantly under customary ownership. The commission of inquiry plans to traverse the entire Acholi land which comprises of Gulu, Nwoya, Omoro, Agago, Amuru and Pader districts.

After two decades of armed conflict between the government and LRA rebels, people returned to their homes to find most land boundaries had either been destroyed or obscured by overgrown vegetation. Many elders who knew the history had also died, resulting in disputes between families, clans and individuals.

Acting Aswa regional police commander, Osteen Wilber Wanyama, said majority of crimes reported to the police are land-related.

“In terms of crime categorization, 80 per cent of the crimes that we handle are land-related. The commonest areas of crime here are mainly criminal trespass, malicious damage [of property] and assaults over land,” Wanyama said.

alitwaha@observer.ug

Comments

+2 #1 Lakwena 2017-10-11 09:39
If it is government officials, security personnel and politicians ganging up to evict locals from their land; then who is lying to Ugandans about the pending Land Amendment Bill?

In other words, Mr. M7 thinks that: the number of times he shouts in the Microphone, at the village folks that the opposition are liars, lying about the Bill; it will cleanse him from being pathological liar.
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+2 #2 zungulu zzungulu 2017-10-11 11:54
Who is felling down mature trees indiscriminately at Achwa Ranch?
Can you leaders take note and follow up?

Logs upon logs are ferried every day on tens of long trailers, do you want to wake up after there are no longer any trees and the environment has been destroyed?
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0 #3 Lakwena 2017-10-11 15:37
Quoting zungulu zzungulu:
Who is felling down mature trees indiscriminately at Achwa Ranch?
Can you leaders take note and follow up?


Zungulu zzungulu, if Ugandans' necks are under the military boots of foreign nationals, to whom should they run to and report the carnage and loot?

Unfortunately some treacherous Ugandans, including those in the Armed forces, are aiding these alien barbarians to cause; not only environmental meltdown, but also grievous harm to fellow countrymen/women and children.

In other words, the land-grabbing and the destruction of the environment are done out of covetous and malice intentions. e.g., historically Gulu or Acholi Sub-region receives the highest volume of rainfall in Uganda.

Destroying the forest means reducing that region into the current cattle corridor drought quagmire.
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0 #4 Grant 2017-10-11 16:23
MUSEVENI AND HIS COHOOTS ARE SUCH A BIG DANGER TO OUR COUNTRY AND UGANDANS HAVE BETTER WAKE UP FAST!!
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0 #5 Apollo 2017-10-11 23:08
In strategic terms, Lady Justice Bamugemereire's findings will hand a very powerful weapon into Gen. Museveni's hands.

As he embarks on stampeding some unpopular bills and tightening his grip on power, he is more likely to be weary of powerful politicians, security personnel and public officials given their financial and local influence.

Now, since the majority have been involved in impropriety of one kind or another by the Land Inquiry Commission, he will use the findings as 'stick' where 'carrot' will fail when dealing with these officials.

The troublesome ones could be prosecuted, humiliated and punished.
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