19 May 2011

Uganda: Fear As Foreign Nationals in Kampala Face Eviction

An American family may have already spent their last night at their home in Makindye, a Kampala suburb, after they were told last week to vacate the property they occupy within seven days, under unclear circumstances. The seven days elapsed on Tuesday.

The family was reportedly told by a group claiming to be descendants of late Buganda King Daudi Chwa that the land on which they are residing belongs to them and the queen mother of Buganda.

King Daudi Chwa is the grandfather of Kabaka Ronald Mutebi. He was king of Buganda between 1897 and 1939. A conflict has been brewing between the Buganda Land Board and the Mengo establishment on one side and a group led by among others, Prince David Simbwa, over large parcels of land.

According to an intelligence source, the group is led by a very influential woman also an "African chemist" by profession. "We are trying to stop them but her influence is far-reaching. We are looking for a solution to this mess," the source said.

US Embassy officials were not available for comment by press time yesterday. The evicted family is not the only one bickering with this group that is now orchestrating a wave of forceful evictions, seemingly targeting foreign nationals.

On April 24, a German family was evicted from a house they were renting in Makindye by the group. They were evicted before they could remove their property from the house.

Sources say the family is living at an undisclosed location within the city with friends, but are terrified after their ordeal. In another incident early this month, a German woman was ejected from her Makindye home after weeks of threats. Her servant quarters were extensively damaged by youth hired by the 'chemist'. The woman has since fled, leaving behind her property.

All the victims have refused to have their identities published by this newspaper, fearing for their lives. All the cases were reported to the police but nothing has been done, causing a wave of panic among foreign nationals owning properties in Makindye.

"How can they do this to us? We are Ugandans," one of the victims who preferred anonymity told this newspaper on Tuesday as he broke down in tears.

By press time yesterday, the police spokesperson Judith Nabakooba was trying to establish the authenticity of the case and could not comment on it.

Makindye Deputy RDC Hussein Lukyamuzi, confirmed knowledge of the evictions and said a group led by Prince Simbwa was terrorising residents.

"The group is becoming very wild. We are trying to stop them," Mr Lukyamuzi said.

Evictions illegal?

"I went to one of the homes and found six men had taken over the home. I inquired why they were there and they became wild," Mr Lukyamuzi said.

Mr Lukyamuzi said he contacted members of the Mengo establishment and the Buganda Land Board who said the evictions were illegal.

"According to Prince Wasswa, those tenants had their leases renewed. Prince Simbwa and that group have no right to evict lawful tenants," he added.

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