Masaka — Masaka Municipality leaders have opted for negotiations to resolve a long standing land dispute with the Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF).
For about five years now, municipal authorities have been wrangling with Masaka based Armoured Brigade headquarters, accusing the latter of expanding its boundaries into a piece of land measuring 7.7 hectares which is purportedly owned by the municipality.
Although the army insists the land belongs to the Armoured Brigade, local leaders say it is part of a public cemetery.
The land in contention is located at Kasijjagirwa Village and shares boundaries with the Armoured Brigade headquarters in Masaka.
It was surveyed in March last year amid protests from leaders and residents. However, the army is yet to release the survey report.
But in an effort to resolve the dispute, Mr Godfrey Kayemba, the Masaka Municipality mayor, on Monday revealed that they are ready to surrender the land to the army only if government accepts to compensate them during the ongoing negotiations.
"We don't want to continue pulling ropes over something which is solvable, we needed that land for a new public cemetery, but if they are ready to compensate us and we buy land elsewhere, we are ready to leave them utilise it as they want," Mr Kayemba said.
He, however, declined to reveal how much money they want as compensation.
"The government chief valuer will value the land and set the standard cost which the government should release to enable us secure another piece of land for the public cemetery," he added.
According to Mr Kayembe, the current public cemetery at Masaka Regional Hospital is filled up and the municipality has nowhere to bury unclaimed bodies.
Mr Matia Kakooza , the Kimaanya/ Kyabakuza Division chairperson, said after failing to get a survey report, they chose to liaise with municipal leaders to engage the army for an amicable settlement of the dispute.
Mr Kakooza the land has served as a public cemetery since 1911.
According to the UPDF spokesperson, Brig Richard Karemire, the Force is ready for negotiations with whoever owns the land.
"We have interests in that piece of land for security reasons and we are ready to engage whoever owns it for an amicable deal," Brig Karemire said in a telephone interview with Daily Monitor over the weekend.
The Armoured Brigade is one of the specialised units of the UPDF Land Forces with its headquarters at Kasijjagirwa Barracks outside Masaka Town. It has several tank battalions, a maintenance unit and a training school at Armoured Warfare Training School -Kalama as its organic elements. The Brigade also has attached elements such as the Guard unit, among others.
In 2017, the army issued an eviction notice to more than 200 residents in Luk aya Town Council, Kalungu District reasoning that they had they had illegally occupied the land.
The controversial land, measuring 463.43 hectares, is part of the Bulakati Army Airstrip land and it comprises Mwota Block 181, Kirinnya Block 184, Lukaya Block 185, Kalungi Block 145 and Kawanda Block 146.
In 2015, government also asked residents in five villages in Bukakkata Sub-county in Masaka District to relocate to other areas to pave way for re-establishment of a military training base and an airstrip.