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LUWERO: Police barred from instituting criminal trespass charge against tenants

Luwero, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Luwero topped the list of districts with the highest cases of malicious damage to property and criminal trespass resulting from persistent land conflicts. According to the 2022 police crime report issued last week, Luwero district registered 172 cases of malicious damage to property followed by Mpigi with 169 cases and Butambala in third position with 145 cases.

The report also shows that Luwero came third in cases of criminal trespass after registering 191 cases. Erastus Kibirango, the Luwero LC5 chairperson says cases of malicious damage to property and criminal trespass are related to land wrangles as people from Kampala city buy chunks of land for farming as well as construction.

Kibirango says that some landlords drag tenants to the police on charges of criminal trespass so as to intimidate them to vacate their newly acquired land despite the fact that they have occupied it for years. Kibirango adds that other landlords hire people who cut the crops of tenants to force them off the land.

Nulu Kijjambu, the LC3 Chairperson of Kikyusa sub-county says that hundreds of residents in her area lost their foodstuffs last year when they were slashed resulting in land conflicts.

Willy Luwomwa, the Kamira sub-county LC3 chairperson, and the Kiramantugo village LCI Chairperson, Abdul Asiimwe are among those that were locked up at Luwero Central Police Station after Dr. Moses Muwonge accused them of trespassing on his land and killing his goats. This came after Luwomwa led residents to re-open a road that was closed by Dr. Muwonge blocking several settlers on a disputed part of his 500 acres of land from accessing their gardens.

Richard Bwabye, the Luwero Resident District Commissioner says that to stop the vice, the District Security Committee has passed a resolution directing all Police officers to desist from opening up cases of criminal trespass unless the complaint is backed with letters from either LC1, 2, and 3 chairpersons so as to prevent trumped up charges against tenants.

Bwabye says that several cases of criminal trespass are fake since they are used to force people off their land, which they can’t tolerate. Bwabye says that their decision to ask for LC1 letters is intended to prove that the person either trespassed or has been occupying the land before someone acquired it.

Ronald Ndawula, the Luwero District National Resistance Movement Party chairperson says that the leaders can’t stop the cases because of the overwhelming demand for the land. Ndawula proposed that the government through Land Fund buys off the pieces of land from landlords and donates it to the tenants to minimize the conflicts.

According to the crime report, 7,838 cases of malicious damage to property were reported to the police across the country in 2022 compared to 6,980 cases reported in 2021, which is a 12.3% increase. Furthermore, 8,418 cases of criminal trespass were reported to the police across the country compared to 7,636 cases reported in 2021 representing a 10.2% increase.



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