By Hanning Mbabazi
Masaka: Court in Masaka presided over by the Chief Magistrate, Deogratius Ssejjemba on Friday12 July cleared the eviction of more than 500 households from 350 acres of land in the area.
Court ruled that these residents of Kasanje Village, Kyesiiga Sub-County in Masaka District unlawfully settled on Joseph Bukenya’s land without his consent.
Bukenya in 2019 ran to court accusing residents who settled on his land that was given to him by a one Praful Patel before Asians were expelled from Uganda by former President Idi Amin Dada in 1972. The estate used to house an estate called Masaka Jaggery Mill.
Ssejjemba while making his ruling said the defendants, during their testimonies in court did not deny occupying the disputed land.
“Among the 12 defendants, only two of them; Mudashiru Bbaale and Lwanga Munyweza denied being occupants on the land,but unfortunately, they signed a document which was given to them by their lawyer, Lawrence Yaweh confirming being residents on the contested land, and there is no proof that they should not be implicated in the matter,” he said.
Ssejjemba said during the locus visit to the disputed land, on February19 this year, the defendants failed to prove that they occupied the land 12 years before the promulgation of the 1995 Constitution.
“You had to show me fig trees, coffee plantations and houses that were in existence 40 years ago ,but all what I saw were banana plantations and houses which looked only 15 years older ,” Ssejjemba said.
He also ruled that the defendants ought to bring in court an old person who has over stayed in the village as their witness to confirm how long they have stayed on the land, which they failed to do .
The magistrate said he was satisfied with the evidence brought by Bukenya saying he proved his case beyond reasonable doubt.
“The plaintiff presented a letter from government indicating that he was entrusted by the Asians to take over their property in 1993,” he said.
Ssejjemba ruled that the defendants should vacate the contested land within a period of six months.
“I am issuing a permanent injunction against the defendants to vacate the land and also remove all their property including houses and plantations, failure to do so, in the given time, force will be applied and you will be responsible to pay the team that will come to evict you,” he ruled.
Paul Buzaale, a defendant in this matter and also the chairperson Kasanje Village said the magistrate was biased, insisting that he only based on a fake land title that Mr Bukenya presented and failed to consider their evidence.
“According to the Land Act of 1988, the law legally recognises someone who has settled on a piece of land for more than 12 years as a bona fide occupant, but the magistrate quashed our evidence on that, saying he did not see what we told him during his inspection yet he only inspected two households and said he was tired,” Buzaale said.
Buzaale said the planned eviction will happen over their dead bodies.
“I personally bought five acres on the same disputed piece of land 15 years ago using my hard earned money and you expect me to just leave, no!” he said.