President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, during this year’s June 9 Heroes Day celebrations, vowed to utilize his sixth term in elective politics to do away with the Mailo land tenure which he blames for the widespread evictions.
“It’s evil. I don’t know why some people support these things,” Museveni castigated the land tenure system practiced mostly in the central part of the country.
To demonstrate he was not joking, the Head of State drafted into cabinet Dr. Sam Mayanja, a renowned critic of the mailo land tenure, to command the battle geared at shooting down the land system in question.
Museveni also appointed Judith Nabakooba, and issued her stern instructions to fight land evictions. Swearing in the former police officer turned politician, Museveni stated how she had proven herself as an uncompromising advocate of the bibanja holders back home in Mityana.
What Museveni stated about Nabakooba is debatable given the fact that the bibanja holders he was talking about and who are the majority in Mityana did not reward Nabakooba with a return to Parliament.
In her maiden speech minister Nabakooba vowed; “My overriding assignment is going to be that of fighting land evictions. I will leave no stones unturned as I go about hunting for people evicting Ugandans.”
To complete the puzzle, the President appointed his steadfast lawyer of many years, Kiryowa Kiwanuka as attorney general to unambiguously spearhead the drafting of the blueprint about the elimination of the mailo land.
The new Cabinet sat thereafter and indeed drafted the blueprint which Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja dispatched to the national assembly seeking to do away with mailo land.
But following a diatribe in rebuttal the King of Buganda, Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II issued during his coronation celebrations held in Nkoni- Masaka district, coupled with a swift meeting held between Mutebi and President Museveni thereafter at which the two principals discussed the intended affront on the mailo land, the parliamentary debate on the livewire blueprint was paused.
In the meantime, Anti-Mailo Blueprint gathered dust on the shelves of Parliament, possibly with the tacit approval of his master-in-chief, Minister Mayanja has continued to publicize tirade after tirade painting mailo land into evil colors evidently inciting bibanja holders against the mailo land.
Mengo, the administrative unit of Buganda kingdom, has so far ignored Mayanja. The Minister in Charge of Special projects, counsel David Mpanga submitted that what Mayanja is writing in the media is not worthy of debate at all because that is not how government policies are supposed to be generated, let alone debated.
As Mayanja continued to pen his missives and counting, providence came up with some predicament. Fate must have come up with this predicament looking to test the bibanja holders’ advocates’ firmness to eliminate land evictions from the face of country Uganda. The plight dawned upon what is commonly referred to as Katanga.
Katanga lies a stone’s throw from the seat of power here in Kampala. A total of 5,000 people living and earning subsistence in Katanga are about to be evicted. Makerere University is seeking to construct there what its vice chancellor, learned architect Barnabas Nawangwe loves to refer to as a hi-tech science lab.
Problem is that Nawangwe isn’t interested in discussing how the people he is seeking to evict are going to be resettled nor compensated. “We own that land. We have a Title to prove it,” Nawangwe contends as he advises the people of Katanga to go away.
Government too doesn’t want to indulge on the matter in its capacity as the owner of the university. This raises questions as to the authenticity of the land fund and indeed the purported concern for Bibanja holders in Uganda, since the government, as the custodians of Makerere, has turned a deaf ear to Makerere’s eviction threats.
This has led many to wonder; Is the fund hot air? If not, is it applied selectively? Who is supposed to benefit from this fund and how? Is it another route improvised by ‘thieves’ in government to loot the public coffers? These are pertinent questions which call for answers from the authorities who created this kitty ostensibly to help resettle people such as these of Katanga.
Well, much as this problem is really scary, it is a blessing in disguise too! How? It presents opportunity to Ugandans to interrogate the honesty of President Yoweri Museveni and that of his lead lieutenants in Dr Mayanja, Nabakooba, Kiryowa Kiwanuka and the entire government as far as the campaign to rid Uganda of land evictions is concerned.
President Museveni has been blaming land evictions on mailo land owners especially in Mengo who, he contends, the colonial masters ‘gifted’ with land for helping them to capture Uganda. Well, right now, a government university is about to evict a total of 5000 people from three villages, moreover, next to State House.
The public university is also gearing up to raze down hundreds of businesses and buildings from the face of Katanga. Such buildings include hostels occupied by learners from poor families, and buildings from which, the proprietors have been earning sustenance as well as paying taxes both to government and the city authorities.
But the President and his lieutenants are not only conspicuously silent, but are also disbelievingly absent.
Is government not guilty of conspiracy of silence in the circumstances?
While Nawangwe advances on Katanga, what has so far transpired are merely voices of disapproval from politicians from the opposition. Even then, government hasn’t heeded calls from those politicians by stepping out to save Ugandans caught up in the melee from being rendered homeless as well as jobless.
One of the politicians is Hajj Bashir Mbaziira. Mbaziira is the MP of Kawempe South where Katanga and its three villages of Kimwanyi and Busia are located.
Mbaziira has defended himself by stating that: “I tabled the matter on the floor of parliament. The Deputy Speaker Anita Among instructed the Minister of Security to do something,” Mbaziira reminisces.
He (referring to Minister Jim Muhwezi) promised he would do something, Mbaziira continues dejectedly, “It seems the general; Jim Muhwezi Katugugu told me lies. He hasn’t been picking my calls lately.” If the general can’t do something about this predicament, and Parliament is desperately looking on, just know that the stakes are high.
But how can government remain silent in light of this predicament? Isn’t it true that Museveni and his government have been priding themselves as advocates of Ugandans who are bibanja holders? Has government forgotten about a line in the Constitution which its principal helped to write, conferring upon it the duty to protect citizen and their property? If the government has forgotten or absconded its responsibilities hereof, it’s our business to remind them and we are on this page remind to them accordingly.
That the problem touches on security given that the victims might be forced to resist being evicted or resort to crime to earn a living, one would think government should be doing something about the predicament before it can get out of hand and cause it problems which are both security and political in nature.
Remembering that government is bedeviled by the problem of unemployment, it is safe to say evicting a total of 5000 people, is only going to compound the problem.
Amidst the silence and panic in Katanga, one can’t help but ask, “Where is Dr Mayanja, Nabakooba and the so-called Land Fund? Recent reports indicate that the Fund was applied in Bunyoro to compensate absentee landlords. When the government fails to heed the cries of Bibanja holders in Katanga, you would not be wrong to conclude that the Fund was either introduced for other reasons other than rescuing those it claims it supports, or perhaps that it’s application is selective.
There are those who rightly observe that such informal settlements as Katanga are holding back the pace of Kampala’s modernization. But such voices are silenced when they are reminded of the Naguru-Nakawa incident.
If you’re a keen follower of the land debate in Uganda, you may recall that in 2007, the government of President Yoweri Tibuhaburwa Museveni evicted thousands of poor Bibanja tenants from its land in Nagguru just opposite the headquarters of the Uganda Police Force.
It allocated the land to a ‘foreign’ company in the Names of Open Prime Properties to develop what was dubbed as an Ultra-Modern City.
Some construction started but stalled and the investor eloped. Parliament under the stewardship of former Speaker Rebecca Kadaga instituted an inquiry into the matter following whistleblower information that the land had eventually been parceled out to some individual Ugandans.
Around May this year, just before the 10th Parliament ended, the Parliamentary Committee on Physical Infrastructure, led by Nakifuma MP Kafeero Ssekitooleko, presented findings of its report which showed that Uganda Land Commission (ULC) had allocated some 50 acres of land to private persons as opposed to a single investor.
To sum it up, the Committee sought to have the beneficiaries of the land – read grabbers subjected to a ‘rigorous due diligence’ exercise as a way to rubber stamp their loot. Parliament chaired by Speaker Kadaga rejected the proposal amidst castigations from both NRM and Opposition MPs.
The now former Leader of Opposition Betty Aol Ocan, castigated the government for evicting the people its claims to vouch for.
Ocan said: “We went to Naguru when those people were evicted and found them crying with nowhere to go. We should love our country and know that there are many more generations after us who will need these public resources.”
The plight of Naguru Bibanja tenants also brought a tear even from the NRM MPs themselves. Agnes Ameede (NRM Woman MP for Butebo District) lamented: “I mourn the actions of our government for mismanagement of land in this country thereby causing chaos. Who bewitched this government?”
But the import of these flashback events in Naguru-Nakawa, whose former tenants, many of whom are languishing in abject poverty somewhere in Kasokoso – in Kira municipality – is just to show that the government or those in leadership have hidden agenda dressed up in the purported fight for Bibanja holders. Examples of ‘land scams’ fashioned as development projects are innumerable in Uganda’s recent history. Some of the most outstanding ones that have caught the media’s attention include Shimoni, Lubanja in Wakiso to name just a few.
To remind you, most of the displaced persons, or those threatened with displacement as the case is with Katanga, is that they Bonafide Occupants, and therefore legal holders of the land, according to the 1995 Constitution of Uganda.