5,000 face eviction

By Dan Wandera

Residents of Kansiira, Soweto and Pondya villages in Lwabyata Sub-county, Nakasongola District have petitioned the President over attempts to evict them.

More than 5,000 families in the three villages are facing eviction by Mr Livingstone Butagambe who claims he legally acquired the land.
Some residents said they were arrested and detained at Nakasongola Central Police Station over alleged trespass.
“We have been arrested on charges of trespassing on our own land. The landlord, Mr Butagambe, is using the district police land desk headed by Mr Hakim Mugoya to intimidate us,” Mr Abdul Karim Bukenya, one of the affected residents said in an interview last Saturday.

He added: “We paid Shs500, 000 as police bond for each of the eight people arrested. The directive given by the commission of inquiry into land matters stopping the land transaction and boundary opening has been ignored by the landlord,”
The disputed land measures about 1.2square miles.

Without convening any meeting to possibly introduce himself to the sitting tenants, Ms Elizabeth Nakafeero, a resident, said Mr Butagambe fenced off their land including the community water dams.
“He [Butagambe] brought in cattle which destroyed crops. Many residents have fled their homes in fear of being arrested on trumped up charges of trespass and malicious damage,” Ms Nakafeero said.

She added: “I was arrested with my daughter on April 18 and we only gained our freedom after paying Shs500, 000 as police bond.”
The residents claim their rights as bibanja holders have been disrespected yet they are protected by the Land Act.

There are fears among residents that if rampant illegal land evictions are not checked, they may lead to insecurity and violence.

“We are Ugandans who have the right to own land as bibanja holders. We do not deny the fact that we are bibanja holders, but call for respect of our rights,” Mr Disan Walo, 52, a resident of Kansiira Village, said. The affected residents also claim the office of the Resident District Commissioner has not helped resolve the matter, but instead backed the landlord.

The Nakasongola Resident District Commissioner, Mr Dan Muganga, however, denied supporting any illegal eviction of residents.
“When I visited that area, the instruction to Mr Butagambe was that he should not evict any individual from his Kibanja. It is against the law to fence off the community water dams and bibanja. If Mr Butagambe has gone against what we agreed upon, then he is in trouble,” Mr Muganga said.

“We shall also investigate the alleged involvement of police for possible reprimand,” he added.

When contacted, Mr Butagambe said he genuinely acquired the land and wants the tenants to vacate to enable him utilise it.
“I have a land title for my land and I challenge those people who are making noise to present theirs,” he said
Mr John Byarugaba, the officer-in-charge of Police Standards Unit (PSU) in Savannah Region, said investigations against Mr Mugoya on alleged extortion and malicious prosecution have commenced.

“It is true that the affected residents from the three villages brought up those allegations and we are investigating them,” he said.

Alex Ssekayingo, Ibrahim Mirembe, Richard Musalwa, Fred Isingoma, Florence Nantalo, Bashir Oja and Eddy Kiyaga reportedly paid Shs500,000 at Nakasongola Central Police Station to get police bond. But police bond is a constitutional right that should be enjoyed by any citizen without payment.


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