By John Njoroge
The battle for the Naguru-Nakawa housing project has now taken a new twist with another group of land seekers joining the ranks in a manner that resembles the 19 century scramble and partition of Africa.
According to Alaka and Company Advocates, the law firm that was representing the tenants of Naguru-Nakawa, most (if not all) of the land in that area has been given away.
Opecprime is wasting time going to court. All that land is gone and we have proof. The new owners have even started paying off some of the tenants, Renato Kania of Alaka and Company Advocates told The Independent.
Kania adds that he had seen a letter from the president giving away part of the Nakawa land to ten companies. The letter is addressed to the Ministry of Lands directing them to allocate land to ten companies including Allied Bank, The National Library and others.
The government had originally allocated the Naguru-Nakawa estate land to Opecprime Properties Uganda to develop the area into a modern satellite town composed of flats, mansionates, executive bungalows, commercial buildings and public facilities like leaisure parks etc. However, things later took a different turn. The sitting tenants petitioned the Inspector General of Government (IGG) protesting the sale of the land. The IGG halted any further development on the land until theÂ petition was disposed of. The petition is still pending.
In the meantime the Ministry of Lands allocated part of the Nakawa-Naguru land to other developers. Opec Prime Properties too has since sued government for breach of contract, seeking to repossess the land.
Opecprime Properties was given the land by President Museveni and cabinet in 2005. The tenants sued Opecprime seeking compensation before they left the estates. They lost the case, but have refused to leave since 2005 when they were asked by the developer to vacate the estates. Kampala City Council, the principal landlord, stopped collecting rent from the houses on the two estates in 2003 after the council had declared the units dilapidated and unfit for human habitation.
On June 13, 2008 the then Minister of Local Government Kahinda Otafiire wrote to Minister of Lands Omara Atubo rejecting the latter’s earlier proposal that Nakawa housing estate land be left out of the redevelopment project by Opec Prime Properties.
In the letter Otafiire reminded Atubo of the May 5, 2008 meeting with the president at State House Nakasero where they discussed the problem of allocating part of the estate lands to small developers yet the government had already entered an agreement with Opecprime Properties to redevelop the area. It also transpired that the small private developers had already acquired titles for the plots allocated to them.
Otafiire told Atubo that during the State House meeting, it was pointed out that the reallocation of the land to small developers was jeopardising the Opecprime Properties’ efforts to redevelop the estate.
“During the meeting, it was agreed that the only way out of this problem is to cancel the land titles of the small private developers and ask them to agree to work with the developer,” Otafiire’s letter reads in part. He said that under the arrangement, Opecprime Properties would build structures and those small private developers would buy them. He argued that this would guarantee quality in terms of physical planning and development and would avert haphazard development in the area.