By Promise Twinamukye
Judith Nabakooba, the Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development has told the people of Nyabihoko Parish, Kitagwenda district, who prefer to be called the Bonafide (also squarters) of the land, that the government will help them acquire their land legally after a thorough investigation of the said area.
This was said in Katoogo, Nyabihoko parish, in a Catholic Church in Katoogo trading centre after dwellers called upon government to keep them from getting evicted from a land they have stayed for a long time.
The people raised concerns on the land after (a few months ago), they say a team from Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) came in mapping. In relation to an intended eviction notice they had received earlier on, the villagers rose their voices in fear of definite eviction, forcing their leaders to stop the mapping.
The mapping was about the population counting, which is done every five years to know how many people are in the country for proper planning and documentation as a country.
According to Baheebwa Longine Byagagaire, the RDC of Kitagwenda, he led a team that stopped the mapping from happening until the people are informed on why they are in the area and this was done.
In relation to the ownership of land, Baheebwa revealed that however much Kobani (a name available for the said land owner) has papers, she does not know where her land starts and ends.
It was also revealed that apart from the land in Nyabihoko, there is another piece of land, together totaling up to 1000 acres, which stemmed from one person who bequeathed the land to his children after acquiring it under Tooro kingdom around 1962.
Baheebwa revealed that the land contains about 1000 hectares but the one in question is 251 hectares and sits about 700 households of about six villages.
The owner, who is now in her 90s gave her powers of attorney to her daughter, a one Sarah Namazzi, with whom the village leaders are in contact.
Nabakooba, after listening to the pleas, promised the villagers a thorough investigation on the matter for about two months. In early February 2023, the Ministry of Land, housing and Urban Development boss promised to convey a final report as they forge a way forward for the squatters.
“No one will be chased out of their land. As government, we want to introduce a land tenure security so that everyone gets a title. The only thing disturbing you is because you do not have titles. When you have no papers, no matter how genuine you are, people will look for a way of disrupting your livelihood. No matter the results from the investigations, you will stay on your land,” she said.
She revealed that there have but issues where someone realizes that people do not have land titles and they quickly go to forge their own titles for the land, dating it back to the days where many were not yet born. This has been done especially after realizing that Government is compensating absentee landlords.
“The good thing with this land is that we still have people that were born in a time before this land is claimed to have been given to the absentee landlords. This will be able to help trace the real state of the owners,” she said.
Basing on the president’s directive, Nabakooba stressed that no squatter should be evicted from their land.
She then directed the leaders of the village to stop any kind of surveyor that comes to open boundaries before anything has been agreed upon as per the meeting.
“Leaders should also know how many people are in the region or parish and for the dwellers of the land, you must know how big your land is and your said boundaries,” she said, concluding that they are going to write to the commissioner Land registration to start investigating the issues of the land’s blue page with other associations to give her a final report from the ground before they figure out what next.
Among other things that have been talked about were querry wrangles and repairing a damaged bridge and road to which a positive feedback was given.
Nabakooba advised the people to make use of the land to make it easy when it comes to making for them titles, which she said will be free of charge since most people would not be able to afford the costs involved in acquiring a title.
Ismail Mushemeza, Chairman LCV Kitagwenda district reminded the masses to endeavor keeping everything in writing and not relying on word of mouth, just like one would do a will.
The villagers believe that closing up the day to talk to the minister was worth it since most of their troubles have been tackled with a positive response from the Government.