By Spy Uganda
Rwampara: Lands Minister Judith Nabakooba intervened in issues of disputed land in Rwampara district, one of those that have had a clean land wrangle record in the recent past and issued directives as court processes go on.
The land in question that comprises four cells located in both Rugando Subcounty and Kinoni Town Council, Rwampara District was granted to a group of people and the Catholic Church in the 1950s by the then Ankole Kingdom officials and measures 300 hectares.
Locals in the area under Kitwe-Nyamatete Farmers Co. Ltd claim a one Robert Rutabembererwa, the executive director Birya United Agency wants to unrightfully possess ownership of the land that he has since evicted them from after the change of ownership from Kitwe-Nyamatete Farmers Co. Ltd to Birya United Agency Ltd.
The land was contested by a group of 23 people who later split to make two feuding groups.
One of the aggrieved parties, the Catholic Church that was represented in the meeting by Fr Aloysious Kashamba from Mbarara Archdiocese explained to the minister that the District Land Commission in 1963 gave some land to the Catholic Church and later in 1989, it (the Catholic Church) applied for a lease offer and it was granted a 5-year lease.
Nyamatete Farmers also applied and got a lease title in 1993 before the Church’s lease period expired where the Nyamatete had encroached on church land.
“We request to remove our church land that amounts to 6.718 hectares from this disputed land that was encroached on by Nyamatete Farmers then before they transferred their interests to Birya United Agency limited,” Fr Kashamba said.
Mr Wilson Matovu, a son to the late Kayanda who was one of the 23 people shared that he was among the 13 who were excluded from the original 23 leaving 10 people to be registered in the association and 2 people were added yet originally these 2 people were never among the 23.
“I later agreed to be registered to Kitwe –Nyamatete group and agreed to rent out the only asset we had which was land,” he said.
Matovu added that unfortunately that same land by the time he agreed to be registered, had already exchanged ownership from Kitwe- Nyamatete Farmers to Birya United Agency Ltd and now seeks to know his fate.
Mr Enock Atuhaire who has also been central in this land matter told the minister how he was sued for trespass and malicious damage to the extent of being denied bail yet he had substantial sureties. He requested the minister if she could possibly allow the community to continue grazing their cattle until ownership of this land is determined.
Addressing the locals in Rwampara on September 10, Nabakooba shared that she has been hearing land disputes everywhere but had not heard of any in Rwampara and this was one of the kind as she received the directive from President Museveni to come and see exactly what is going on in the area.
She thanked the locals for voting for the president, NRM flag Bearers and people who love their community despite the challenges.
The minister stressed that the tendency of evicting people because a group of people feel they have money, power and security has to stop and security of tenure has to be prioritized.
She explained that instances, where few people connive with the rich and end up giving out the land, has to also stop.
Nabakooba was concerned by the fact that the land in question had three caveats on it but the land officer in Mbarara then went ahead to remove them yet the land is under dispute.
“This I can assure you heads are going to roll, we can’t have such people serving in offices. I am going to take action. I need to know whether the due process was followed in leasing out this public land,” she said.
About ownership, the minister said since the land is still in a court process, locals now need to focus on bona fide and lawful ownership of land since most of them are descendants of the former owners, which makes them owners too.
She also expressed her fears that probably due diligence was not done since Birya United Agency seems not to have come on the physical ground but only used land registry which resulted in the conflicting since a number of the things about the land were not decided amicably.
Nabakooba made administrative directives until ownership is determined by court since there is an ongoing court case.
“From today, RDC and RPC, private security should get out of this place and put a neutral force which belongs to the government, which is the Uganda Police Force. As we establish the owner of the land, RDC and DPC, let the people graze their animals,” she said.
She also directed the Land Protection Office to investigate the matter widely from the 1950s up to date and find out if all the due processes were followed and if there is an error somewhere, those who did it will be held accountable for their mistakes.
“I want you to register yourselves if you are not so that we know how many people are on this land. For those that messed up the entire matter, investigations will reveal them further, if there were illegalities committed, they will definitely be answerable because what we want is to solve this matter conclusively since it has taken too long to be sorted out.”
Pledging to keep in touch with the area MP and DPC to ensure things are moving on well as directed, Nabakooba also tasked the district Chairman and DPC to educate the people in a bid to empower them to understand their land rights and also protect them so that disputes don’t re-arise