13 August 2018

Uganda: I'm Ready to Go to Jail, Says Minister Namuganza

Kampala — Junior Lands Minister Persis Namuganza has said that she is ready to go jail for defending land rights.

"I told my husband that am ready to be taken to prison because once you become a public servant, you are subjected to anything. And if they take me to courts of heaven, that is even better. God is fair and he will look at them and say that this woman has no problem," Ms Namuganza said.

She noted that as a minister who handles the lands docket, she will continue intervening in all land wrangles as directed by the President to defend the victims, adding that if the Commission of inquiry finds her guilty, she is ready to go to Jail.

Ms Namuganza's remarks which she made on Monday while speaking to journalists at her office in Kampala, were triggered by her recent appearance before the Commission of inquiry into land matters, last week.

Minister Namuganza appeared before the Commission to explain her role and the circumstances under which she took purported owners of a land in Mubende District, whose ownership is disputed and being investigated, to meet President Museveni who ordered compensation payment to them.

The minister, who also represents the people of Bukono County in Namutumba District, told Journalists that the Commission was 'out of order' when they questioned her about an assignment which was sanctioned by the President, whom she said, instituted the same Commission.

"Why would you call the minister whom the president moved with and assigned her to follow-up the matter, asking me why I took people to the president without informing you as if am the one who told the people of Mubende to petition the president? The way they [Land Commission] have been conducting themselves is as if they subdued the ministry and it no longer exists," she said.

The Commission, which is chaired by Justice Catherine Bamugemereire, was instituted last year by President Museveni to inquire into the effectiveness of the land law, policies and processes of land acquisition and management in Uganda.

But Ms Namuganza questioned its relevance, arguing that it has since deviated from its core mandate. She said that it's now behaving like co-wives with the Lands ministry yet the two are supposed to cooperate.

Last week, she boldly told the Commission to respect witnesses if they are to gather information instead of interrogating them in a rude manner.

"Now you the commission that has just come, you even say that the minister of lands shouldn't step in State House to take people or to attend any land meeting. Even here, they used to call me, asking me why the president doesn't invite the commission for land meetings. Can you imagine?" the minister wondered.

Asked whether she thinks the Lands ministry doesn't have any black spots since her senior colleague, Ms Betty Amongi had earlier been summoned by the same Commission, Ms Namuganza said that appearing before the Commission isn't a problem as long as it's done in good faith but not in a way meant to destroy someone's career.

She also claimed that members of the Commission have previously come to the lands ministry and forcefully asked for some stuff yet this could be provided as long as clear procedures are followed.

Ebert Byenkya, one of the Commissioners who is also the spokesperson of the Commission, told Daily Monitor that he had no instructions to respond to the Minister's allegations against them in the media.

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"The minister had all the time and opportunity to raise her concerns when she appeared before the Commission last week. If she has any issues, there are also proper channels she can use but not the media," he said on phone.

However, Mr Byenkya noted that their Terms of Reference are clear on investigations, adding that a minister can't investigate herself when a matter comes up, neither can she run away from investigations.

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