Masaka, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | More than 600 residents of Kasanje village in Kyesiiga sub-county in Masaka village are fidgeting after receiving eviction notices from the land they have occupied for over 50 years. The more than 324 acres of land is home to over 200 families and their burial grounds as well as food and coffee plantations.
It originally belonged to Indians before their expulsion by the President Idi Amin Dada government in August 1972 and was allocated to residents. URN has learnt that Joseph Bukenya, who claims to have been the custodian of the land since the expulsion of its owners, reportedly sold it to Masaka businessman, Methodox Kasujja who wants the 600 occupants to leave.
According to the residents, they have occupied the land even before the 1995 Uganda constitution-making them bona fide occupants.
Pascazia Nakate, 70 and George William Kavuma, 68 and others say that they are stranded and do not have where to go. They accuse Bukenya of using the COVID-19 lockdown to disorganize them yet the government prohibited evictions and land transactions in the lockdown.
Vincent Mugerwa, who heads the affected residents, says that in 2009 Bukenya went to Kasanje claiming ownership of the land but failed to produce documents proving his claims. He says that Bukenya, through Solis & Co. Advocates issued an eviction notice on June 6, 2021, and gave the occupants up to June 30th, 2021 to vacate the land, which they resisted.
Gordon Mayanja, the Kyesiiga LCIII chairman, says he is aware of the ongoing conflict over land. He explains that the matter reached State House and the president requested the then Vice president Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi send a team of lawyers to assist the residents which he failed to do.
He adds that Bukenya and his team are violating the presidential directive, which prohibits the eviction of people from land amid the lockdown.
He noted that Bukenya went on to sell the land to Kasujja without meeting the Bibanja holders as stipulated by the constitution.
Richard Ssebamala, the Bukoto Central Member of Parliament has intervened in the matter by sending a lawyer to assist the residents. Sarah Nakasiita of JN Kateregga & Co. Advocates says that preliminary findings indicate that the residents are occupying the land legally; adding that she will do whatever is possible to protect them from illegal eviction.
Nakasiita explains that the next step is to go to court to defend the affected families since they have received the eviction notice from Bukenya.
However, Bukenya has maintained that he is the rightful owner of the land and has every supporting document to claim it. According to the Uganda constitution, a bona fide occupant is a person who had occupied and utilised or developed any land unchallenged by the registered owner or agent of the registered owner for twelve years or more before coming into force of the 1995 Constitution.