Mityana, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Thousands of people occupying land owned by the Uganda Railway Corporation-URC in Mityana district have been given up to March to vacate or be forced out.
In April, the URC management issued a 6 months notice requiring all the occupants to vacate the railway land as the government revamps the railway line across the country. URC is claiming land measuring 771 acres comprised of more than 30 villages in Mityana district.
Adonia Nzira, the estates assistant in charge of Mityana railways said that URC does not have money to compensate the encroachers who occupied the land knowingly that it does not belong to them. Earlier on, URC told village chairpersons at an engagement meeting to encourage the people to voluntarily vacate the railway reserve land or else they will be forcefully evicted.
“The encroachers should be the ones compensating us (URC) for the period they have been illegally using the land which they know belongs to URC, but since these people are seeking sympathy, they had to lie that they own titles on railway reserves,” Nzira said. He added that if the encroachers claims of owning titles on railway reserves are true, they should go to the people who sold the land to them for compensation.
Asked about the police officers who use URC facilities, Nzira revealed that URC has its police officers and whenever they need security, they ask for it and pay their allowances and overtime.
“We are not concerned with other police officers, we have helped them for a long time but now it is high time they vacate and leave for their levels elsewhere, this is not a police barracks,” he said. He added that URC has written several letters to their commanders including the Inspector General of Police without a response, but ministry of works promised to engage the IGP to ensure that the officers leave.
But Wamala Region Police Spokesperson, Rachel Kawala dismissed information to do with URC writing to them asking for police officers to vacate the railway facilities. “We have not received any written document or official communication regarding that matter, however, they say that have written to the IGP, we shall wait for the official communication,” Kawala said.
Mityana LCV chairperson, Patrick Mugisha Nshimye proposed that URC should first compensate people on railway land because they have stayed long on that land.
“People stayed long on that land with permanent properties like buildings, farms and gardens, eucalyptus forests so they owe a compensation before vacating,” Mugisha said, adding that they have people on this land with land titles.
“Mityana district land board should come out and explain to us how these people acquired land titles on URC land,” he added. Several leaders in the district where the railway passes have insisted that URC first surveys their land because they may evict people on land which is not theirs.
Busimbi division chairperson in Mityana municipality, Daudi Malagala asked the government to consider URC as a new project because of the mistakes made by its agencies like the ministry of lands, in issuing more than one land title which the government have to deal with.
“If URC kept quiet when people were encroaching in its reserves for over 20 years, it should take the responsibility for the consequences caused due to their laziness,” said Malagala.
Sande Kafunda, the LCI chairperson of Bbuye-Kikumbi village said that they want to know the actual measurements of URC land since they claim to own 100 meters each side away from the railway line.
“Our parents used to tell us that railway reserves have 50 meters each side away from the railway line but these tell us 100 meters away. Before evicting people, we want to first see their land title,” he demanded.
Busimbi railway LCI chairperson, Musa Basudde Ssempeke said that they welcome the development if it is true the railway is going to be replaced because Busimbi railway benefited a lot from it since their parents used to work in railway. “We want that development but URC should survey their land first. In 2018, they tried evicting people in my village and destroyed peoples’ property including houses but after running to court demanding for a survey, it was later discovered that they wrongly demolished peoples houses that were not in their land,” he added.
It is alleged that the Busimbi Railway Local Council area in Busimbi division sits on land which used to be the main railway station in the Wamala region linking Kampala railways to Kasese, as well as a waiting point for passengers to board the train and offload goods.
A section of residents say what used to be the railway’s turning point to Kampala or Kasese is now occupied by the Mityana abattoir which has been in existence for over 20 years.