Mbale, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Over 30 families in Makhumbo village in Mbale city’s industrial division are out in the cold following their eviction from their ancestral land. The families were dissatisfied by government’s compensation for over 600 acres of land currently hosting Mbale industrial park in the then Bukasakya sub county in Mbale district.
In 2008, government gazetted 619 acres of land in Musoto village located about six kilometers South of Mbale central business district to host the industrial park. The land formerly belonged to Bugisu Co-operative Union and was allocated to Uganda Investment Authority as part of the 3 billion shillings bail out government advanced the union.
Over 800 squatters on the land ran to court to secure an injunction to stop the development of the park until they are fully compensated. Government valued the land and started compensating them for their property to pave way for the establishment of the industrial park.
However, some of the residents said their land had been undervalued. They declined to vacate the land until they are fully compensated. On July 6th, 2020, a group of security officers from Mbale industrial park and the UPDF led by Sgt. Robert Kiwanuka forcefully evicted the 36 families from their homes between 9:00 pm and 1:00 am.
The affected family members have now taken refuge at the nearby mosque, Seventh day Adventist church and the residence of the area LCI chairperson. They accuse Mbale District Resident Commissioner Sulaiman Ogajjo Barasa, the Trade State Minister and area Member of Parliament, Michael Welikhe, LC III chairperson and Gombolola Internal Security Officer for aiding their eviction in defiance of a court injunction arising from a civil suit No.004 of 2011.
On April 4th, 2019, the then Mbale High Deputy Registrar, James Mawanda Ereemye Jumire issued a temporary injunction maintaining the status quo on the land which was in favor of the applicants. However, on March 30, 2020, the Mbale RDC issued a letter that he called a final call to the affected people to vacate Mbale industrial park land.
In the letter, the RDC said that he was implementing a presidential directive to evict the land within fourteen days. “Arising from the presidential directive on 19th/March, 2020, the district security committee sat on the 27th, March, 2020 and resolved to implement the president’s directive by giving a notice of fourteen days within which you should vacate the said land peacefully without attracting government to use other means,” the letter a copy of which URN has obtained reads in part.
95-year-old Jessica Nabujeke is one of the residents who was evicted from the land and now lives in a nearby church after losing over 10 acres of land. She explains that on the fateful night, she was sleeping in the house when she was brutally thrown out of her house.
According to Nabujeke, she was never allowed to pick anything from her house that was eventually knocked down by a grader. She called for the president’s intervention to save the affected families from suffering.
Hussein Tenywa, the LC 1 chairperson Makhumbo village says that the UPDF officers who conducted the eviction raided the resident’s home at night, handcuffed them and brutally evicted them from the land.
The Mbale Resident District Commissioner, Sulaiman Ogajjo, says the affected people have no claim over the contested land, adding that they are only squatters who were compensated but refused to pick the money.
He dismissed allegations of ordering the eviction, saying that he was only implementing a presidential directive.