The Observer (Kampala)

12 January 2014

Uganda: UPDF to Evict 115 Families

Bukoto East MP Florence Namayanja is locked in a row with the army over the planned eviction of more than 115 families in the sub-counties of Bukakata and Mukungwe in Masaka.

The affected families live on a three square-mile chunk of land on block 332, plot 4 Buddu, covering the villages of Ssunga, Nabugabo, Bukumbula, Kigo, Nakatooke, Kisasa, Kisosa, Bukaayi, Bbaale and Kku nnya (four miles to Bukakata landing site). Last November, the residents petitioned Buganda Katikkiro Charles Peter Mayiga, seeking the kingdom's intervention since the land in question is said to be part of the Kabaka's estate.

The petition, also copied to the Buganda Land Board and area MP Florence Namayanja, has seven demands, including that the katikkiro explains whether the kingdom is aware of the planned eviction and subsequent takeover of the land by the UPDF. The locals also want the kingdom to give them an opportunity to buy the land if it is up for sale.

"In June 2013, President Museveni came around to commission the air force trainees and stood on [a strategic] hill overlooking the [air force] training base. He then said that we would be evicted," Eridad Lubowa, one of the affected residents, told The Observer last week.

A month later, army officers from the Masaka-based armoured brigade barracks returned with district chairman Joseph Kalungi and other local leaders to sensitise the local population on the upcoming developments. But the registration process of the residents was halted when Namayanja indicated that she would petition Parliament over the matter.

Namayanja went ahead and briefed Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah. Oulanyah advised her to wait until he had spoken to the Chief of Defence Forces, Gen Edward Katumba Wamala.

"Gen Katumba came in September, stood at the same point where Museveni had stood and later on told us that we could not continue living there because the army intends to expand the [air force] training base, and to also build a barracks," Lubowa said.

Suspicion

The UPDF Political Commissar, Col Felix Kulayigye, also visited the area on December 23, 2013, and reportedly cautioned locals against involving their MP in the row, warning against politicization of the matter. But the MP was nonplussed.

"I'm a people's representative, I was elected by the people, and nothing that affects my people can go on and I don't get involved," Namayanja said.

Meanwhile, there is talk among locals that the government may have discovered some treasure underneath the soil, probably oil, and wants residents evicted without any encumbrance.

Suspicions began in 2009 when Museveni toured the area and later met with a group of foreign nationals at Ssunga primary school.

"I'm demanding to know what is going on, the government should handle this matter in a transparent manner; otherwise, it could be a ploy by some people in government to take over this land," Namayanja said.

Army land

The katikkiro could not be reached for a comment. He was reportedly away on a short holiday. Buganda Land Board's Communications manager, Abbey Ntambi, said he needed to cross-check the information. On his part, Masaka district chairman Joseph Kalungi first feigned ignorance but later denied there were plans to evict people.

"The meetings we held in the area were to urge the locals to go on with their activities, but also to ask them to cooperate with the UPDF surveyors," Kalungi said on Tuesday.

"What is happening was started by the president because when he came, he told the people openly that he needed to put to use the army land. The UPDF now wants to demarcate its land, but we have not confirmed its programme of establishing a barracks there," he said.

The armoured brigade's public relations officer, Lt Winston Mumwijeho, told us that the matter was above his jurisdiction.

"The parties involved are beyond the armoured brigade because if the CDF is involved and [Kulayigye]; that puts it at a different level," he said.

Army Spokesman Lt Col Paddy Ankunda declined to comment.

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