Uganda: Land Evictions - Tears Still Flow in Mubende

Government has up to the end of this month to get an amicable out-of-court settlement for a case brought by about 2,000 evictees from a 2,500-hectare piece of land in the central district of Mubende.

In August 2001, government used UPDF soldiers to drive more than 2,000 people off their land in Madudu sub-county, Mubende district. Later, Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) handed the land to a German investor to establish a coffee plantation.

The investor has since established Kaweri Coffee Plantation Ltd, a subsidiary of the Germany-based Neumann Kaffe Gruppe, one of the world's largest coffee companies with similar projects in Kenya, Mexico, Brazil, Tanzania and El Salvador.

Last Tuesday, Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda visited the plantation and promised that government is about to resolve the matter amicably. Rugunda revealed the plans after local leaders, notably the LC-V chairman Francis Kibuuka Amooti and Buwekula MP Maj Joseph Kakooza, implored him to settle the matter out of court.

"It has become a political matter; it is now a campaign issue being used by those against us [NRM]," Kibuuka told The Observer on August 21.

"It is the first time that somebody at a senior level in government is making a statement about the resolution of the matter," he added.

David Neumann, the proprietor of Kaweri coffee plantation, steered clear of the court issues during last week's event. Led by Peter Kayiira, the evictees registered their first court victory against government in March 2017 when the High court in Kampala awarded them Shs 37 billion for illegal eviction but the state appealed against the decision.

Armed with a cartridge map of the contested land, Kayiira claims that UIA gave a fake lease offer to the German investor.

"I have access to the land titles of Block 99 Buwekula, and what is clear is that it is registered as the official estate of the Katikkiro [Buganda kingdom prime minister]," Kayiira said.

Deputy attorney general Mwesigwa Rukutana heads the government team that includes, minister of State for Kampala and Mubende Woman MP Benny Namugwanya Bugembe as the other negotiator with the evictees.

Once the negotiations fail, the matter will come up for hearing on December 2 before Justice Henry Kaweesa of the High court's Land division in Kampala.

DOUBLE TRAGEDY

After she was evicted from her 10-acre piece of land in present-day Kaweri Coffee Plantation, Joyce Namakula was resettled on a three- acre plot of land at Kambuye in Mubende Municipality.

Before their eviction, government offered to relocate the evictees to Kambuye on land that included villages in Kanseera, Kikono, Kyabaana and Lwensanga. Seventeen years later, they were again evicted from their new homes after a Mityana-based businessman George Kaweesi laid claim to land measuring 322.5 hectares.

Like many others whose lands were taken, Namakula now rents a single room at Kawuula, not far from the coffee estate where some of the evictees work as casual labourers.

Namakula refused to work in the plantation but ekes out a living offering cheap labour in gardens in the neighbouring villages. Going by the documents in Kayiira's possession, the Kambuye land too could be part of the land registered under the ownership of Buganda kingdom.

According to the cartridge map, Block 168 at Kambuye is registered as the official estate of the Luwekula (Buganda chief for Buwekula county).

There are fears that the Kambuye land is going to be annexed to the coffee plantation. Kaweesi, the man behind the Kambuye evictions, declined to be interviewed but the LC-V chairman blames the entire confusion on Hajji Swaib Lubega Waggwa, the former resident district commissioner.

Waggwa had allegedly sold the land Mubende LC V chairman Kibuuka Amooti to Kayiwa who was the landlord at Kaweri but died before paying the full amount. He later repossessed the land and sold it to Kaweesi.

"We had agreed as leaders and asked Hajji Waggwa not to evict anyone, he waited until we had gone to Kyotera for [last year's] Independence day celebrations to start the evictions," Kibuuka said.

sadabkk@observer.ug

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