Masaka, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | At least 600 residents of Kasanje and Lwemodde villages in Kyesiiga sub-county, Masaka district have petitioned the Minister of Lands, Housing, and Urban Development to halt their impending eviction.
The residents, who occupy 145 hectares of land, want the Minister of Lands to reign in over two businessmen Methodius Kasujja and Joseph Bukenya, who secured a court order to repossess the disputed land.
Led by Alice Namwanje, the residents want Judith Nabakooba to stop the businessmen from takeover of the land. This follows a court ruling declaring the residents unlawful occupants.
Namawejje argues they have occupied the land in question for over 50 years, which makes them “bonafide occupants” who are protected under the law. She wonders why the court declared them unlawful and authorized their eviction.
In 2021, the Masaka Chief Magistrate Deogratius Ssejjemba adjudicated the dispute before granting the businessmen permission to occupy the land after proving their ownership. Namawejje indicated that the affected residents have nowhere to relocate their families and should be allowed to pay off the businessmen.
Mike Matovu, another affected resident indicates that the businessmen have given them a month ultimatum to vacate the land, which has thrown the community in disarray. He alleges that the businessmen have since compromised a few of the occupants with very little monies in the guise of compensation and are using them as baits to evict hundreds.
Jamiruh Kivumbi, another resident says that they failed to appeal the court ruling that deposed off the land because they could not afford to hire lawyers to represent them. According to Kivumbi, they are currently living in utter fear because the businessmen have already started clearing plantations on the same land to replace them with eucalyptus and pine trees.
Joseph Bukenya, one of the businessmen threatening to evict the occupants says that the residents cannot claim ownership of the land because it does not belong to them. He explains that after the court ruling, they engaged the occupants and resolved to give them moderate compensation for the crops and other temporary assets saying that the current arguments are out of dishonesty.
Bukenya says he bought the land from Asians who were using it for tea growing, arguing that residents took advantage of their expulsion in 1972 and encroached on the land.
Early this month, President Yoweri Museveni issued a directive halting any land evictions in the country and directed the District Security Committee to thoroughly study all evictions orders before they are executed in their areas.