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Bushenyi farmers drag Gov't to court over sh249m debt

By Michael Odeng

Added 25th March 2017 04:57 PM

The case dates back to 1989 when President Yoweri Museveni directed the farmers to rehabilitate Ankole Tea Company

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Attorney General William Byaruhanga.

The case dates back to 1989 when President Yoweri Museveni directed the farmers to rehabilitate Ankole Tea Company

A total of 93 former tea farmers from Kamuhunga in Bushenyi District, have petitioned the High Court over delayed compensation.

Under their association, Family Plot Owners of Ankole Tea Estate, they dragged the Attorney General (AG) to the civil division of the High Court, demanding sh249m in compensation from Government.

The farmers led by Ahamada Kakuru and Maimuna Kamondo sued the AG through Byaruhanga and Company Advocates on Frida. AG is the legal representative of government.

According to Kakuru, their case dates back to 1989 when President Yoweri Museveni directed the farmers to rehabilitate Ankole Tea Company, then a government establishment, which was in a bad state.

"In 1989 President Museveni while from his tour at Hima Cement Factory in Kasese made a stopover at Ankole Tea Company and found when the tea plants had overgrown, bushy and unproductive, consequent to which he instructed estate manager one William Kizza to allocate plots or portions of the tea estate to families so that they can rehabilitate and maintain it," Kakuru claims.

The farmers contend that President Museveni promised that people who took up the shambas, rehabilitated and maintained them, would be compensated by government for all the costs they incur, when an investor took over the management of the company.

Court documents indicate that the farmers together with other 141 beneficiaries were allocated the said plots, which they managed until 1994, when the company was privatized by the government.

Thereafter, the government assessed, verified and computed the farmers, who were eligible for compensation and ascertained that they would receive sh249m and other 141 beneficiaries, sh138m.

The complainants aver that government directed the officers of the Privatization Unit, Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development to pay beneficiaries, including them but in vain.

The farmers say as they waited for payments, 141 beneficiaries in 1998 dragged government to High Court in Mbarara for payment of their dues and following a court decree, they were paid sh280m in special and general damages and cost of the suit.  

In a letter dated March 15, 2014 government acknowledged that it was indebted to the farmers in the said sum and President Museveni directed the officers of the Privatisation Unit to pay the farmers but in vain.

"Strangely, the officers defiantly ignored the president's directive and have to date refused to pay our money," Kakuru said.

According to the farmers, privatisation officers' action of denying them their legal entitlement, has caused them economic suffering for more than two decades.

They therefore want court to issue an order, compelling government to pay them sh249m with interest at 25% per annum from 1994 until when the suit was filed in court. They also seek for damages and costs of the suit.

Court is yet to summon the AG to file defence over the said allegations.

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