So far, the most agonizing testimony the Catherine Bamugemereire Commission on Land, has heard is the one in Mubende, where an “investor”, Abid Alam, has been alleged to have grabbed more than 13 square kilometers of land for a sugar plantation.
But arguably, the most tear-jerking, is one in Wakiso District, where land grabbers have dispossessed a centurion woman of her land. In the latter case, the old woman is appealing to Bamugemereire to get to her rescue.
These two cases encapsulate the whole saga of “land grabbing” in the country. In the Mubende case, the issue is on the Government policy of “investment” and the “benefits” likely to accrue to the population.
At one time, President Yoweri Museveni, was quoted as requesting that, “leave my investors alone”. Alam may be one of his investors.
But what Bamugemereire is hearing on her circuit is a poignant manner in which this prized investor has gone against the population. According to testimonies by the villagers, an LC 1 chairman and some members of his family were killed, allegedly on Alam’s orders, for resisting the “illegal” occupation of their land. Other inhuman acts were done in the process of acquiring the land-for-sugar.
The conversation is on the benefits of sugar to the whole population as against the dispossession of the people of their land. It is following a policy which may not be in the interests of the people. Is it really that the people are against investment? Who would it benefit? Are their interests actually catered for?
This mirors the more loudly-proclaimed case of Amuru land. Again, an investor, Madhvani, was involved. Again, the villagers – the owners of the land – agitatedly protested the “grabbing” of their land.
The Government came heavily on the side of the investor, using teargas, Police arrests and the deployment of military detaches. Mercifully, the “investor” has seen the inhuman futility of his venture, and has withdrawn from the sugar plantation project. Why was Bamugemereire not involved in the Amuru land case?
The case of the Wakiso centurion is more isolated. Some fraudsters went with fake papers and forced the old woman to sign off huge chunks of her inherited land, which they subsequently sold off to other “developers”.
And for this they employed the power of the Police officers to effect their illegality. This is the normal case, as is common here, of the abuse of power.
In a recent case, such was attempted in a land, off Bwebajja, that attracted the intervention of another figure in the realms of power. Brigadier Kasirye Gwanga, also used his “power” position to “intimidate” a land grabber.
The land grabber has never come forward; only using pawns.
Now, the issue has “normalized”. This is more-or-less the case of abuse of power against the abuse of power. Where weaker characters (the people), have been involved, they obviously become helpless victims.
Land grabbing normally concerns the people in the corridors of power. They come to know from their vaunted positions that a Government project, usually a road, is going to pass through such-and-such places; then, they go there and disposes the people of their land.
So, when the project is implemented, they are then in a position to wrest billion of shillings from the same Government as compensation, that they were involved in determining its policy in the first place. It is chicanery of the highest satanic order. Cases abound without going into any manner of subjudice.
The conversation has gone on back and forth that the constitutional provision on land is adequate; and that what should be done is for Parliament to pass an Act that will operationalize this provision.
The politicians and policy makers are fully aware of the direction the issues should be channeled to, but because of the greed of some of those who are in a position to benefit directly from the confusion, they let the matter fester on.
It boils down to the moral attitude of these people as against the political will of the power function to articulate these measures towards the doing what is right for the people and the country. This is sorely lacking.
Through aspects of governance, legality and a demand for ethical inclinations, the Bamugemereire Commission, using one facet of a country’s attributes, has been thrust into deciding whether the leadership and the people are willing to adhere to the principles of the rule of law and morality. We shall see!