10 February 2013

Uganda: RDC, Naads, Fight Family Over Mpigi Land

An unusual land dispute involving a community of 300 people has sucked in Fred Bamwine, the resident district commissioner of Mpigi.

The group, mainly consisting of the late Pasikale Kiwanuka Kafoloma's relatives, accuses Bamwine of trying to force them off the deceased's estate. Bamwine is further accused of hiding behind government development programmes to dispossess them of the land. The disputed land on Block I plot 46 and 47, is an expansive chunk measuring 1,200 acres in Mbute village, Muyira parish, Kamengo Sub-county in Mpigi district.

Bamwine insists the land belongs to the government. He says it is part of Kampiringisa National Children Rehabilitation Centre. Given its public ownership, Bamwine says, the Mpigi district administration offered 250 acres of the said land to the National Agricultural Advisory Services (Naads) to construct a farmers' leadership centre. But Bukenya Kunsa, who is in charge of the late Kafoloma's estate, disputes Bamwine's assertion, saying the land belonged to his great grandfather.

"The land I know is owned by the ministry of Gender since 1932 and if those people claim ownership they should show you either the title or agreement," Bamwine told The Observer by phone.

Last month, Bamwine deployed police and soldiers to guard the land as workers started fencing it off. Bamwine confirmed that there's some "ongoing work on the land." Bukenya Kunsa says he has since been denied access to the land where he owns matooke, sweet potato and cassava gardens. Bukenya claims that Bamwine directed the locals to clear the gardens and take away the food.

He further claims that in December, Bamwine destroyed 10 signposts that he (Bukenya) had erected warning the general public that the land is not for sale. In a letter dated October 30, 2012, Bamwine says his office had been petitioned by the Naads Secretariat which complained that "Bukenya Kafoloma was blocking the construction of the National Leadership Centre at Kampiringisa."

This letter, which Bamwine copied to the Permanent Secretary, ministry of Agriculture, the Executive Director of Naads, and several local leaders, was meant to invite Bukenya and other stakeholders to a joint meeting on November 1, 2012 at the RDC's office. However, the meeting didn't take off because only Bukenya's sister, Miriam Nabukenya, and an unidentified man, whom Bamwine claimed was a Naads official, turned up.

At this meeting, Bamwine reportedly asked Nabukenya to negotiate with the said Naads official so as to resolve the dispute. Nabukenya refused.

"I just walked away from his office because I could not make any commitments on behalf of my family," she told The Observer early this month.

However, Bamwine denies meeting any members of the Bukenya family.

"I have never met any of those people," he said on Monday.

"Maybe they met the wrong person. You're talking about the RDC's office where over 184 cases of land disputes have been registered ever since I came here three months ago."

Bukenya says he has copies of letters from the Administrator General's Office that confirm him and his family as the rightful owners of the estate.

In one of the letters, dated October 3, 2012, Jimmy Oburu, an assistant administrator in the Administrator General's office, writes to the Mbute village LC-I executive and Kamengo police station, asking them to stop 'illegal encroachers' on Bukenya's land.

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