4 May 2017

Uganda: Rwamutonga Families to Be Re-Evicted - Masindi Court Has Ordered

Photo: Francis Mugerwa/Oil in Uganda
Rwamutonga displaced residents shortly after the return to their homes on the land from which they had been evicted in 2014.

Hoima — Masindi High Court has cleared another eviction for families in Rwamutonga village, Hoima district, where a US firm wanted to set up an oil waste treatment plant.

An order dated April 4th 2017 signed by the assistant registrar Acio Julia cleared Ochika Julius, a court bailiff, to give vacant possession of the land to Tibagwa Joshua and Kusiima Robinah and to demolish any illegal structures on the land.

The land is on certificate titles under VRF 10521, Folio 6, Block 44 measuring 103.553 hectares located at Rwamutonga village, Katanga parish, Bugambe sub-county in Buhaguzi County.

"Whereas the above mentioned land is in possession of Abwoli Mukubwa Beatrice, Uromacan Martin, Ausenge Petero, Onita Quinto, Latim Alex, the applicants, their relatives, agents or servants was decreed to Tibagwa Joshua and Kusiima Robinah," the order reads in part.

"You are hereby directed to put Tibagwa Joshua and Kusiima Robinah in possession of the same and authorized to remove any property/persons bound by this decree that may refuse to vacate the same," the order stated.

The order, which was kept a secret from the families facing eviction, became known on April 20th when it was served to Hoima district security committee members.

The order has sparked tension and fear among the families who were evicted from the same land on August 25th 2014.

The families that lived in a makeshift camp near the land for about three years returned to the land in March this year (2017)after being permitted by Robert Bansigaraho who is in a land dispute with Joshua Tibagwa.

IGP clears eviction

In a letter dated April 19th, addressed to the Albertine regional police commander, the office of the Inspector General of Police cleared the eviction.

"The purpose of this letter is for you to comply with the court order. If any person feels aggrieved by the court order, the remedy is to appeal or cause review of the matter at hand," Nairuba Diana, an official in the Police's Legal department wrote for the IGP.

According to Nairuba, the applicants applied for a review of the court order which was clearly denied by the learned judge. The trial judge was Justice Simon Byabakama who has since been appointed Uganda's Electoral Commission chairman.

"A court order is a court order and cannot be replaced by an administrative decision, thus be advised to comply with the order as guided by the commandant land protection unit in the attached forwarding letter," the letter referenced PLS 62/211/01/VOL 56 read.

Mr Atich Nelson, LC111 Chairman Rwamutonga village talks to ActionAid's Extractives Project Officer Flavia Nalubega during a visit to the displaced persons in Rwamutonga. Photo by Francis Mugerwa.

Prime Minister had blocked eviction

The Prime Minister's office had previously blocked the eviction of the families. This was directed in a letter dated March 6th 2017 signed by the First Deputy Prime Minister Gen Moses Ali and addressed to the Albertine regional police commander Police:

"Please ensure that no eviction takes place, with a view of enhancing peace and tranquility. By a copy of this letter, the minister of internal affairs is hereby informed and so is the Inspector General of Police (IGP)," stated Ali who is also a deputy leader of Government business in parliament.

Gen Ali reminded police about the ruling at Masindi High Court in which Justice Simon Byabakama declared their eviction as wrongful on October 22nd 2015.

Judge petitioned to halt eviction

The centre manager at Justice Centres Uganda, Mr. Tiyo Jonathan, wrote on April 21st 2017 to the Masindi resident judge asking him to exercise his supervisory powers and halt the execution of the eviction and investigate anomalies in the court process.

He said the bailiff had been directed to put Tibagwa and Kusiima in possession of the land from where the families were wrongfully evicted.

He stated that the lawyers are preparing to file an application for a judicial review to quash the warrant and prohibit the intended execution so as not to cause injustice and inconvenience to the families.

Much as the eviction has not yet taken place, it can be executed anytime from now. The eviction order will expire on May 4th 2017.

Rwamutonga displaced residents shortly after the return to their homes on the land from which they had been displaced in 2014. Photo by Francis Mugerwa

Background

Robert Bansigaraho who in 2014 entered into a consent judgment and surrendered his title covering 103 hectares to Tibagwa has since withdrawn from the deal and allied with the families.

He argues that the families have suffered enough as a result of displacement which prompted him to allow them back on the land.

Mr. Tibagwa sued Mr. Bansigaraho accusing him of grabbing his land. However in a turn of events, Mr. Bansigaraho entered into a consent judgment with Mr. Tibagwa in September 2013 in which Bansigaraho surrendered a title covering 103 hectares to Mr. Tibagwa.

Mr. Bansigaraho, however, says he regained his land after Mr. Tibagwa failing to give him an alternative 350-acre piece of land, compensating squatters and fully compensating him.

Mr. Tibagwa insists that Mr. Bansigaraho surrendered to him his title and signed the title transfer forms.

Mr. Tibagwa consequently applied to court for an eviction order to evict Mr. Bansigaraho and occupants of the land which he obtained in July 2014. The over 250 families were then evicted in august 2014. The eviction was later declared unlawful and should not have happened in the first place, Masindi High Court ruled.

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