Land probe: IGP Kayihura wants government agencies ‘crucified’ over property saga
Kampala, Uganda | JULIUS BUSINGE | The Inspector General of Police Gen. Kale Kayihura has demanded that the ongoing land commission of inquiry interrogate government agencies named in the illegal sale and demolition of a building on plot 60-62, Aldina Road in Jinja trading centre.
The demolition was done in January 2015 with the knowledge of the police in Jinja, according to former tenants of the government building.
Kayihura made the remarks while appearing Tuesday before the Justice Catherine Bamugemereire commission to explain the role of the police in this matter.
“…where is Uganda Land Commission, where is the Privatisation Unit? You should call them and crucify them like you have crucified me, we shall even give you a battalion,” Kayihura told the commission amidst applause from the packed inquiry room at the Wandegeya venue outside Kampala city.
According to information available before the commission, a over 200 people under their umbrella organization, Alidina Twegaise Traders Association, who were conducting business in the building, were illegally evicted by Simpson Birungi, a director of Birus Property Services.
Birungi claimed to have been cleared by government to own the property. But evidence before the commission indicates that the title of ownership that Birungi possessed had been cancelled by court.
This meant he was not the right owner of the property, according to the commission. The owner was government.
The other evidence before the commission pinning Birungi is that he used a forged court order to evict the former tenants. He gave former tenants a verbal eviction notice of 24 hours. The former tenants say that they lost property worth billions of shillings because they had not cleared their merchandise by the time the demolition was conducted.
Former tennant blame police for connving with Birungi
The former tenants say that Birungi, who is yet to appear before the commission to defend himself, connived with police and Uganda Land Commission and officials in the Privatisation Unit in the Ministry of Finance to evict them.
They had been using the building that had earned them a living for the last 48 years. Many of them inherited the businesses from their parents.
The former tenants told The Independent that they are currently processing business documents to obtain the extent of loss for each of the individuals.
Commission Chairperson, Justice Bamugemereire revealed that evidence before them shows there were irregularities and forgery of documents by Birungi to forcefully gain ownership of the property.
Kayihura too admitted that there were mistakes that his junior officials made in the process and that he would work with the commission to punish the officials in question.
“We are going to act,” he told the commission.
This matter has previously been handled by top government agencies like the Inspector General of Government (IGG) and the Ministry of Internal Affairs, but nothing has been achieved yet.
The commission has summoned officials from Uganda Land Commission, the Privatisation Unit and Birungi to give their side of the story.
Background to the commission
Instituted by President Museveni in September last year, the commission’s mandate was informed by rampant land evictions, complaints relating to land grabbing, delayed transactions in land issues, unfair treatment of genuine land owners, tenants and other problems related to land acquisition, administration and management and titling.
The commission has just resumed this week after break forced by financial difficulties. These, the commission said, have now been resolved.
During the break, the commission registered 160 new complaints from members of the public and most of them were reviewed and selected for the public hearings this week.
The commissioners also commenced the preparation of the Interim Report, which they are required to submit to the President of Uganda within a period of three months from May 9 when the commission commenced the public hearing.
The seven-member commission is to inquire into the effectiveness of law, policies and processes of land acquisition, land administration, land management and land registration in Uganda.
Appointed by President Yoweri Museveni on December 8, 2016 and sworn in at State House-Entebbe, on February 21, the Commission has a six-month mandate to submit its final findings and recommendations to the President.
The committee comprises:
Chairperson: Lady Justice Catherine Bamugemereire; Members: Owekitiibwa Robert Ssebunnya, Mrs. Mary Oduka Ochan, Mrs. Joyce Gunze Habaasa, Dr. Rose Nakayi, Hon. Fredrick Ruhindi, and Mr. George Bagonza Tinkamanyire; Support team: Mrs. Olive Kazaarwe Mukwaya (Commission Secretary), Dr. Douglas Singiza (Assistant SecretaryResearch), Mr. Ebert Byenkya (Lead Counsel) and Mr. John Bosco Rujagaata Suuza (Assistant Lead Counsel).