By Raymond Baguma
President Yoweri Museveni has issued a stern warning that anyone who connives to evict peasants illegally from their land will face criminal prosecution.
President Museveni held a press conference at his country home in Rwakitura, specifically to re-affirm his order stopping all eviction of peasants from their land.
Museveni first communicated his directive on February 22, in a statement that was exclusively published in full in New Vision on Monday February 25.
Museveni on Tuesday reaffirmed that the Government had made a decision to halt all evictions involving peasants and anybody found engaging in evictions will be prosecuted.
He blamed the ongoing evictions on developers, who have recently amassed wealth dubiously through corrupt practices and have contempt for the peasants.
He said the Land Act 2008 amendment criminalises eviction of tenants from their land and sets a prison term of seven years for whoever is found guilty of evicting people illegally. He noted that most of the evictions are reported in the central region of Uganda.
“We are not going to allow eviction and the law is there. We made it criminal. The State had to come in to the side of bibanja owners. We shall prosecute you,” a tough-talking Museveni said during a press conference he called at his country home in Rwakitura Tuesday evening.
What he says is that developers collude with local leaders, resident district commissioners, the Police and army personnel to evict the voiceless peasants who are often times ignorant.
“All evictions are halted. There will be no more evictions, especially in rural areas. If anybody involves himself in the evictions, he will be handled severely according to the 2008 Land Act."
He said if people’s property such as land is interfered with, this affects the Government’s plan to see that Uganda progresses and prospers.
Government would not defend those who encroach on other people’s land, so aggrieved land owners are advised to file complaints in courts of law and said the Government would help them to evict encroachers and make them compensate for damages on the land.
The President named a team headed by minister Idah Nantaba and includes Wakiso district MP Rosemary Ssenninde, Deborah Asasira, Mulinde Mukasa Kintu, a representative from the Ministry of Justice, the Police and the army.
He said the team will go to areas returning people illegally evicted, back to their bibanja. He said those illegally evicted will be assisted by the Government to go back to their bibanja and also warned that nobody should encroach on the Government lands such as forest reserves, wetlands and government ranches.
Present at the press conference were lands, housing and urban development minister Daudi Migereko, state minister for lands Idah Erios Nantaba and the permanent secretary of the lands ministry Gabindadde Musoke.
In a separate interview, Nantaba said the President’s declaration was a milestone that will enhance her efforts to stop evictions in the country.
She, however, blamed the Police for siding with land grabbers and protecting them during evictions. Nantaba said priority would be given to areas that are experiencing land wrangles, which include Buganda region, Sebei (Kapchorwa) as well as the northern region.