Mbale — Government's plan to set up an industrial park in Bukasakya Sub-county, Mbale District, hangs in balance after a section of land owners refused to quit the land until they are fully compensated.
Mbale Business and Industrial Park is one of the 22 parks earmarked by the government for development across the country to spur industrial production as a precursor to job creation and equitable economic transformation of all regions.
Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) has set up similar parks in various parts of the country, including Namanve in Mukono District, Soroti, Jinja, Moroto, Kasese and Luzira, a Kampala suburb.
Government is scheduled to set up an industrial park on the 800 acres of land but more than 200 residents have not been compensated.
Government acquired the land in 2008 at a cost of Shs4.5 billion.
The land had been occupied by over 800 families but some have been compensated.
The affected residents settled in the villages of Doko, Makumbo and Masanda in Bukasakya Sub-county. They claim the proposed compensation is too little and they cannot buy land somewhere else for resettlement.
The angry residents of Masanda Village, led by their chairperson, Mr Funna Abudukeri, in a recent meeting chaired by the State Minister for Investment and Privatisation, Ms Evelyn Anite, argued that they cannot vacate the land without reasonable compensation from UIA.
"We are requesting President Museveni to solve our problems of poor compensation before we can vacate. We are not happy with the way government is treating us," Mr Abudukeri said.
Ms Deborah Mulongo, another affected resident, said she has six acres with a number of properties but it was valued at a paltry Shs445,500.
"We cannot allow UIA to cheat us like that. Where can I get a plot from that little money," Ms Mulongo, who could not hold back her tears, said.
The Makumbo village chairperson, Mr Abdullah Mutenyo, suggested that the least paid person should get at least Shs10 million.
"We suspect that there are some irregularities in this exercise. Some officials are beneficiaries," Mr Mutenyo said.
The Bukasakya Sub-county chairperson, Mr Robert Mukamba, said some affected land owners refused the money.
"But some accepted and UIA is responding to those who accepted to be compensated," Mr Mukamba said.
Recently, the State minister for Trade, Mr Michael Werikhe, told journalists in Mbale Town that there were some irregularities in the exercise.
"We need to investigate the whole matter. But residents must embrace this project," he said.
Ms Anite, while responding to residents' concerns, promised to meet the chief government valuer to solve the problem of less payment.
"I'm going to take this matter with the government chief valuer to come and explain why some people were under paid because he is the right person to handle those problems," said Ms Anite.
Mr Fred Opolot, the chairperson of UIA board, said they have so far compensated about 600 people and are remaining with 264.
"We are very ready to pay them once they sign verification forms. People who have been compensated must vacate the land in 6 months," said Mr Opolot.
The Mbale deputy Resident District Commissioner, Ms Pamela Watuwa, told Daily Monitor on phone that over 80 per cent of the land owners have received their compensation.