Residents of Wakiso district yesterday thronged the High Court in Kampala for a verification exercise to ascertain whether they have valid documents and evidence of ownership of disputed land.
This follows a directive issued by Margret Oguli-Oumo, the deputy head of the civil division of the High Court last Friday, directing over 2000 claimants of Bukasa, Kirinya, Namataba and Kito to appear before deputy registrar Alex Ajiji for verification purposes.
By press time, over 120 claimants had gone through the verification process. In attendance were LC1s who helped court to identify their people, representatives from National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), and Ministry of Works and Transport.
For one to be verified, the person must have a valid National Identification Card, accompanied by an LC letter, voters card, proof of ownership of property and must disclose to court what kind of development they have on the said land.
According to Moses Kabega the lawyer of the claimants, the exercise will help court ascertain the actual number of people who have proper identification and therefore valid claims against NEMA and government before the hearing of the case kicks-off.
"The process will take two days because the number is big since three files were consolidated and forwarded to a single judge for trial purposes," he said.
However, some residents asked court to give them more time within which to organise their documents, claiming they received the information at short notice.
Thomson Epia, a resident of Kirinya told court that there was confusion in their areas, as other people intended to petition President Yoweri Museveni over the issue. This prompted Ajiji to ask the said residents whether they want to seek for a political or legal solution.
In December 2016, about 2000 claimants led by Emmanuel Kisembo dragged NEMA to court, accusing it of illegally evicting them from their land without compensation or an alternative settlement place. They claim that they have occupied the areas since 1980.
They asked court to issue an order setting aside NEMA's decision and to declare that they lawfully own the land.
On December 5, 2016 NEMA through a local newspaper published a notice giving the said residents a 21 day ultimatum to demolish their houses and vacate the land or else face forceful eviction.
However, the residents aver that the eviction was in bad faith because they had developed the land with residential houses where they are living with their families, places of worship, schools, health facilities yet government is not willing to compensate them.
According to court documents, the group was among individuals who were affected by government projects including construction of the new Kampala-Jinja express highway, Standard Gauge Railway and Bukasa Port on Lake Victoria.
The investment will cover about 500 hectares of Namanve Central Forest reserve in parts of Mukono and Kira town council in Wakiso.
Court has since issued an interim order halting the eviction until the case is determined.