15 September 2017

Uganda: Minister Admits Faults in Mubende Land Evictions

Mubende — The minister of Public Service, Mr Wilson Muruli Mukasa, on Wednesday admitted there were shortfalls in the work of the committee appointed to amicably resolve disputes between residents and businessman Abid Alam over a 12 square mile-land in Nalutuntu Sub-county in Mubende District.

In 2010, President Museveni appointed Mr Muruli Mukasa to head the committee investigating violations, evictions and suffering claims of more than 2,000 people and resolve the dispute peacefully.

Mr Muruli Mukasa was jointly appointed with State House legal assistant Florence Kiconco, and former Commissioner of Police Willy Ondongpiny.

Appearing before the Commission of Inquiry into land matters in Mubende, Mr Muruli Mukasa, who did not have a copy of a report presented to the President admitted that the compensation list had blank spaces without description of the property and measurement of land that was being paid for.

He also confessed that his committee did not have professionals to value people's claims and did not follow the legal procedures for compensation.

However, the minister was quick to explain that the committee was guided by principles of negotiation for certain figures to be agreed upon for each person and that they only witnessed the payment because some people asked to be paid which they encouraged.

"I am not aware of the petition (protesting our work) and our role was to enforce an amicable settlement of the misunderstanding," said Mr Muruli Mukasa, adding that the payment was made to only those who wanted to be compensated.

He added: "We used a formula to come up with the figures basing on what had already been paid."

The commission observed discrepancies in the report basing on the manner in which figures were determined to compensate the evictees.

However, the minister also said the money was not reasonable.

Information before the commission indicates that there was no leveled ground during the purported negotiations due to absence of arrangements to help the illiterates and semi-literates to negotiate freely and sign documents they understand. But the minister insisted the negotiations were free for all.

"I would like to say that we visited the locals and went from kibanja to another. That is why we were able to determine the acreage. But by the time we reached there, many people had left and most of the crops had disappeared," the minister said.

Asked if he had professionals on the committee the minister said: "The government officers were not considered but only guided by the spirit of negotiation. It was not in order."

He said a few issues arose after the exercise.

About criminal elements and injustices, Mr Muruli Mukasa said there was no evidence presented to the committee apart from the death of the then LCI chairman David Senyama, whose family he said has since reached an understanding with Mr Alam and been compensated Shs24m.

He added that investigations into criminality were tasked to Mr Ondongpiny who was meant to make a report. He denied any claims of schools, Catholic Church and other social amenities being destroyed and said he only saw Pentecostal pastors in the meeting.

The claims

Verification. Mr Charles Bukenya, a witness, told the Commission that Mr Muruli Mukasa did not verify the claimants and their claims but announced a decision to compensate everybody not to go back to Alam's land.

Compensation. He testified that the Mr Muruli Mukasa's team decided to pay Shs280,000 for an acre of land, Shs200,000 for an iron sheet roofed house, an acre of plantation (Shs150,000) while a grass thatched house was paid rated at Shs100,000 and Shs150,000 was considered for disturbance allowance.

Arrests. Mr Bukenya added that upon knowing that they had petitioned the President over the matter, the minister's committee hunted, arrested and imprisoned them in Kaweri Government Prison.

Security purposes. The minister admitted that Mr Bukenya was arrested for inciting violence among people who had agreed to an amicable settlement.

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