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Minister Amongi cited in Makerere land saga

By Charles Etukuri

Added 20th January 2020 11:03 AM

Amongi said she wrote to ULC, indicating that Harris International be allocated 15 acres and the rest remain for Makerere. It, however, remains unclear why, in the subsequent letters, the land allocation to Riham increased to 25 acres and, later, to 75 acres.

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Amongi said she wrote to ULC, indicating that Harris International be allocated 15 acres and the rest remain for Makerere. It, however, remains unclear why, in the subsequent letters, the land allocation to Riham increased to 25 acres and, later, to 75 acres.

LAND GIVEAWAYS

The former Minister of  Lands, Housing and Urban  Development, Betty Amongi,  and the former Uganda Land  Commission (ULC) secretary,  Robert Nyombi, have been cited in the controversial giveaway of prime land belonging to Makerere  University at Katalemwa estates. 

According to documents  Sunday Vision has seen, this land was supposed to be used by the university for the construction of a teaching hospital.  The land in question was given away to more than 14  individuals and firms, despite protests from the First Lady and minister of education,  Janet Museveni. 

Mrs. Museveni protested after  Amongi, who is now Kampala  Capital City Authority (KCCA)  minister, notified her that  Makerere had raised the issue of there grabbed land.  Makerere had secured funds to construct a modern teaching hospital there. 

Sunday Vision has learnt that Makerere possesses the original title to the land, but that officials in the lands ministry created another title,  which they used to subdivide the land to questionable companies and individuals. 

The land at Katelemwa was being used by the university as residential quarters for it's senior staff members since  1920.  Sunday Vision has also learnt that Makerere, through it's real estate investment company,  Mak Holdings, intended to establish a teaching hospital. 

It was supposed to be a 200-  bed upper market modern university teaching hospital occupying approximately 30  acres.  The facility was supposed to include out-patient and in-patient services,  modern facilities for all major operations, staff houses and social amenities, like nursery school, recreational facilities and commercial services. 

HOW IT STARTED 
When asked about her allocation of the land to other parties, Amongi said she had been directed by President  Yoweri Museveni to find land for Harris International.  “The minister does not give the land. The minister receives directives and forwards such to the Uganda Land Commission  (ULC) to act. I received a  directive to find land for an investor within a few kilometres from the central business district of Kampala. I than discussed with ULC and they gave me a title of land in  Katalemwa, in the names of  ULC measuring over 20 acres," she says.  

"They said they would allocate 15 acres to Riham and leave the balance for the construction of Makerere  University hospital,” Amongi said. She added that she discussed the proposal with the President about how the investor would share the land with the hospital. 

“He advised me on how to proceed and I authorised  ULC, to discuss the modalities of sharing land between the university and Riham because both investments are vital for the economy,” Amongi explained. 

FROM 25 TO 75 
Amongi said she than wrote to ULC, indicating that Harris  International be allocated  15 acres and the rest remain for Makerere. It, however,  remains unclear why, in the subsequent letters between the minister and ULC, the land allocation to Riham increased to 25 acres and,  later, to 75 acres. 

In her letter to the Deputy  Resident City Commissioner,  Kawempe Division, dated  April 30, 2018, Amongi said:  “On November 6, 2017, His  Excellency, the President,  wrote to me, directing me to allocate 75 acres of land to  M/S Harris International. We  identified part of the land  for allocation to the above  company in fulfillment of the  President’s directive.” 

Amongi indicated in the same letter that Makerere had used the same land since 1920  and that they had petitioned the education minister to safeguard it for purposes of building a hospital.  She than explained that both her and the education minister consulted the  President in April 2018  and procured permission to proceed in allocating  Makerere land to Harris  International. 

According to Amongi,  Makerere would only remain with about five acres to construct a teaching hospital,  because it can be built in a storeyed way, spreading vertically, rather than horizontally.  Ironically, her letter was neither copied to Makerere nor the minister of education.  When asked about the other new owners of the said land,  Amongi said she did not know how others came in. 

MYSTERIOUS COMPANIES 
Sunday Vision is, however, in possession of letters indicating that, as early as 2017, ULC  than executive secretary  Nyombi, had already allocated the said land to mysterious individuals and companies.  On November 3, 2017,  Nyombi wrote to the  Commissioner Surveys and  Mapping, notifying him of the decision by ULC to allocate  Makerere land to a number of private companies in a  meeting of April 7-8 2016  under Minute 40/2016. 

He directed the Surveys and  Mapping department of the  Ministry of Lands to authorise  the survey of the land and produce certified title deeds.  On November 30, 2017, the than University Secretary,  Charles Barugahare, protested to the than ULC secretary. 

“This land is the property of  Makerere University, which is the registered proprietor of the said land. It, therefore, defeats the understanding of the real property laws and ownership when you, a responsible officer of the government, can go ahead and commit such illegality in broad daylight without the courtesy of even liaising with the University Council,” he wrote.

Barugahare demanded that ULB rescinds the request to survey the said land with immediate effect. However,  ULC did not respond.  On February 14, 2018,  Barugahare again wrote to  Nyombi, reminding him of the illegal survey on Makerere land and wondering why the previous letter was not responded to.

He again called  Nyombi’s attention to the fact that there were people inspecting and surveying the university land and asked for an official position of ULC.  He further warned the minister of lands and ULC  against issuing out any form of ownership certificate for the estate. 

APPEALS FOR HELP 
On April 17, 2018, Prof.  William Bazeyo, who was than acting vice-chancellor, wrote to state minister for higher education Dr. John Chrysostom  Muyingo, notifying him of the illegal tractor of Makerere land at Katelemwa. 

“We intimated that Makerere  University, through Makerere  Holdings Company, intended to develop it's land. However,  despite that, the lands minister has directed to survey off 24  acres of that land and tractor it to other persons.  This is contrary to the use that Makerere University wants to put the land to,  and it will adversely affect the projects of Makerere  University,” the letter reads in part. 

Bazeyo asked Muyingo to prevail upon Amongi to halt her intended action.  On June 19, last year, Apollo  Mabaati, a presidential assistant, wrote to KCCA,  recommending Tech  Solutions to open up the land boundaries on the same land in order to establish whether there is a claim on the land. 

On June 27, last year, Jasper  Kakooza, the former acting assistant commissioner surveys, and mapping, wrote to Tech Solutions, giving them the go-ahead to survey the land.  Kakooza now works as the  KCCA senior staff surveyor.  In spite of all this, Nyombi wrote to the commissioner surveys and mapping on  August 16, 2018, confirming a new list of individuals and companies that had been allocated land.

Each of these was given a five-year lease.  When asked, Nyombi denied any wrongdoing.  “Every Katelemwa land distribution we did was in accordance with the law. All minutes are available at the  ULC,” he said.  However, when Sunday  Vision visited the ULC offices to access the minutes, the file was missing.

The attendant said it could not be traced. 

MAKERERE FIGHTS BACK 
On November 27, 2018,  the Makerere University chancellor Barnabas  Nawangwe petitioned Janet  Museveni over the grabbing of university land.  “Honourable minister,  during the commissioning of the Rwendeire Report on December 2017, H.E the  President emphasized the importance of protecting the university land and properties. 

“The university, with the support from Uganda Police  Force and Internal Security  Organisation, subsequently set up a task force to update the inventory and status of the university land as well as suggest a way forward.  The report of the task force is  now ready for action matrix  on the way forward has been  proposed.” 

Sunday Vision has noted that last year, Makerere officially reported cases of criminal trespass at Katalemwa and several other areas.  The cases were registered as Criminal Investigations  Directorate (CID) at the Land  Police Protection Unit (LPPU)  GEF: 86/2019, Kawempe  CRB285/2019, CID LPPU  111/2019, Kanyanya CRB  124/2019 and MUK CRB  37/2019. 

On November 12, last year, Williams Waigo, wrote on behalf of the LPPU  commandant to university secretary, Yusuf Kiranda,  indicating that the directorate had taken over the inquiries of the respective Police files relating to cases of criminal trespass from Kawempe  Police Station, Kanyanya  Police Station, and Makerere  University Police Station. 

Waigo informed Makerere that the Police were ready to inspect the lands that had been encroached upon.  When Sunday Vision visited the land in question, private individuals had taken over part of it and established a  garage in the middle of the residential estate. 

This story was done with support from the  Democratic Governance  Facility.

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