Kayunga, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The pursuit of justice for residents who are threatened with eviction from land in parts of Makukulu and Nakabango in Kayunga district is imperiled by their inability to attend court sessions.
More than 800 residents from the Makukuulu in Kayonza sub-county and Nakabango in Kitayimbwa sub-county were sued for criminal trespass and illegal settlement on land measuring up to 61 hectares. Ownership of the land is claimed by one Eria Paul Kiwanuka, who allegedly bought it from Erasto Mujjabi in 2012.
Kiwanuka, through his lawyer Annet Nanfuma of Lukwago and company advocates sued twelve of the settlers on the land together with the Attorney General and the Kayunga District Woman Member of Parliament Aidah Nantaba for supporting the illegal settlement on his land.
The case first appeared before Jinja High Court in 2015. At the time, Justice Godfrey Namundi issued a temporary injunction allowing the respondents to remain on the upper part of land until the determination of the head suit. But Kiwanuka transferred the case to Mukono High Court this year demanding to reclaim the remaining part of his land.
But the accused tenants, majority of them, peasant farmers are concerned that their inability to defend themselves in courts of law could dent their chances of surviving the eviction. A journey from Kayonza to Mukono costs not less than 30,000 Shillings at the moment which according to the residents is excessive and unaffordable for many of them.
Fatuma Nassanga, one of the respondents who missed the first hearing of the case on August 13, fears that they could soon become homeless if they fail to defend themselves in the courts. Nassanga has nine children yet on the same land, her late husband left three other women with 30 children altogether.
Another resident Edisa Nalumansi says that she has stayed on the said land since 1991 when she got married to the late Peter Gwayira. Nalumansi says that all the evidence on the ownership of the said land might be useless if they are not supported to present in the courts. Nalumansi lives on the said land with 17 orphaned grandchildren.
Nakabango village chairperson Godfrey Ssekimuli says that it is hard to determine how many times they will appear before the court and how much the court process will cost each of the families. He notes that travelling to Jinja was through community contributions which ais now difficult under the COVID-19 lockdown.
The chairperson of Makukulu village Anthony Kiwanuka says many of the residents settled on the land in the 1950s’ and evicting them more than 50 years later would be unreasonable.
The land claimant Eria Paul Kiwanuka declined to comment about the matter saying issues are before the courts.