Their suspicion is the survey could have been a desk-top work
By Eng. Hilary Onek
The New Vision newspaper this week carried an erroneous story quoting Mr. Steven Irumba, the former Prime Minister of Toro Kingdom, alleging that officials of the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) and the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development settled a number of Ugandans expelled from Tanzania on part of his farm land in Kyaka, Kyegegwa District.
The facts about this matter is that over 5,000 Ugandans expelled from Tanzania were resettled by the Office of the Prime Minister, the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development and Kyegegwa District Local Government on a Government piece of land in Kyegegwa District between June 2016 and March 2017.
The land in question was gazetted on 18th September 1964 as Government Land under the custody of the Uganda Land Commission covering an area of 48 square miles in Kyaka County Kyegegwa District.
From the time of gazettement up to 1994 (54 years), it was used by Government to host Refugees from Rwanda and Congo when the majority of the refugees went back to Rwanda.
Due to population pressure and upon the departure of Rwandese Refugees, Government first released 12 square miles of the land to the area residents (nationals) and retained 36 square miles as government land but for use by the remaining Congolese Refugees.
In 2007, Government decided to transfer the remaining Refugees from Kyaka 1 settlement to Kyaka 11 settlement and allocated the Kyaka 1 land to a private developer called Human Energy (U) Ltd to grow a petroleum producing plant called ‘pongamia pinnata' that could be used to produce diesel for vehicles and machinery use.
However, for over ten years, the private developer failed to put the land to effective use abandoning it to encroachers.
In 2016, Government on realising that the whole 48 square miles Government land in Kyaka 1 had been encroached on, decided to recognise the encroachers on the Government-land on one condition: that the encroachers should accept to surrender for purposes of the resettlement of the 5,000 Ugandans expelled from Tanzania a small percentage of the land he/she is occupying without anybody getting displaced or homes destroyed.
The Government decision ensured the encroachers would thereafter have permanent rights over the balance of land they retained (60-90%) while at the same time, the new comers expelled from Tanzania acquire land for permanent settlement.
The encroachers were sensitized through barazas and radio programmes and they all agreed but they also gave a condition to government: That for fairness, there should be no special status treatment, i.e, every current occupant of the Government land must surrender part of it back to the Government for purpose of resettlement of other desperate Ugandans.
From 1994 after the mass departure of the Tutsi Refugees to 2007, there was heavy encroachment of the Government land in Kyaka 1. Some of the encroachers, however, fearing Government would at one time come up to recover its land, decided to cheaply sell off what they had grabbed. One of the buyers of the Government land from the encroachers is a one Mr. Baguma Henry.
Area residents say Mr. Baguma Henry bought land from about five encroachers land totalling to about 50 hectares and he neither settled on the land nor put it to any productive use; but after a very short period of less than two Months, he allegedly sold the land to Mr Steven Irumba.
Both Mr Heny Baguma and Mr Steven Irumba have failed to present documents of the transaction. Mr Baguma Henry and Mr Steven Irumba without the knowledge of the other residents illegally processed a 505 hectare land title encircling over 350 households (2,100 people) using an interim Land Board of Kabarole District (at the time Kyegegwa was part of Kabarole). It should be noted that the Interim Land Board had no authority to allocate Central Government Land which by the Constitution falls under the jurisdiction of Uganda Land Commission. The Constitution places jurisdiction of all gazetted lands (Forests, Wetlands, Game Parks and Refugee Settlements) in the hands of the Uganda Land Commission. District Land Boards manage Public Lands outside gazetted areas.
Mr Baguma Henry and Mr Steven Irumba used a forged instruction-to-survey-instrument which earlier had been issued by the Department of Lands and Surveys to the Office of the Prime Minister Department of Refugees to process the illegal title.
The land title of Mr Steven Irumba bears the same instruction to survey instrument reference number as that of OPM. Mr Irumba allegedly got the instructions from the interim Kabarole District Land Board (which had no mandate) and the other party (OPM) got theirs from the Department of Lands and Surveys Entebbe.
It is irregular for two different entities to have same instructions-to-survey-Instrument with same reference number. Having acquired a ‘title' Mr Steven Irumba engaged the services of armed people and evicted over 2,100 residents who have since taken him to Court and the case is still pending.
From the Police Intelligence Reports, the area residents informed that Mr Baguma Henry who first owned the title could have been a mere proxy for Mr Steven Irumba in the irregular acquisition of a title on the Government Land.
The area residents say the people (encroachers) who sold land to Mr. Baguma decided to do so because they felt unsafe living on land which they knew belonged to Government.
The residents also claim Mr Baguma who later ‘sold' the land to Mr Irumba only purchased a total of about 50 hectares from the encroachers and they did not see Mr Baguma at any one time bringing surveyors to plot the land before he processed the title and sold to Mr Steven Irumba.
Their suspicion is the survey could have been a desk-top work. This gives credence to the question as to why the Land has the same reference number of the Instructions-to-Survey Instruments with that of the Government.
To the locals' surprise, Mr Steven Irumba presented to them a land title transferred from Mr. Baguma with many of their plantations included.
The community claim, the fact that Mr. Baguma quickly ‘sold' the land to Mr Irumba within a period of less than two months upon getting the title is evidence, he had no interest in acquiring the land for himself but took the effort on behalf of someone else whom they believe was Mr Steven Irumba.
From the above, it is clear Mr Steven Irumba used a proxy (Baguma Henry) to buy land which he very well knew belonged to Government.
The same complaint which Mr Steven Irumba has registered with the Commission of Inquiry in the Effectiveness of Laws, Policies and Process of Land Acquisition, Land Administration, Land Management and Land Registration in Uganda; was first presented by Mr Steven Irumba to Prime Minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda who assured him that if a mistake had been made it would be corrected.
The Rt.Hon. Prime Minister together with Mr Irumba , relevant Ministers and Kyegegwa District Officials held over 20 meetings and carried out several field verification visits spanning a period of one and half years. Colleague ministers, Hon Musa Ecweru, Hon Betty Amongi and Mr Irumba with surveyors spent a whole day walking through the farm to establish if mistakes had been made.
The survey report with maps were presented in a meeting between Mr Irumba, the Rt.Hon. Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. 1st Deputy PM Gen Moses Ali, Hon. Bety Amongi the Minister of Lands, Hon. Tom Butime Minister of Local Government, Hon Musa Ecweru, Minister of State for Disaster Prepareness and Refugees, Hon Namuganza Persis Minister of State for Lands, Hon. Namuyangu Jenniffer Minister of State for Local Government, MPs from Kyaka, the RDC, the Kyegegwa LCV chairman and several community leaders and myself on 21st March 2018 and it confirmed the Land Mr Steven Irumba is claiming falls right inside the gazetted Government Land.
Whereas all the other encroachers numbering over 100,000 people agreed to the sharing arrangement, it is only Mr Steven Irumba who has objected the understanding that every current occupant of the Government land in Kyaka 1 Kyegegwa District must surrender part of it back to the Government for purpose of resettlement of other desperate Ugandans.
It is therefore ironical to find Mr Steven Irumba who illegally evicted over 2,100 people and who illegally processed a land title on government land running for protection to the Commission which is supposed to investigate his illegal evictions.
Mr Steven Irumba using armed guards continues to graze his cattle on crops of the neighbours and he has so far destroyed plantations of the area residents valued at over 850,000,000/=. His action has put a population of over 10,000 people at risk of food insecurity but surprisingly whenever the wanaichi react to the destruction of their crops, Mr Irumba cries out hoodwinking the General Public and Government Institutions that the Wanaichi are killing his cows.
Mr Steven Irumba is trying to portray himself in the eyes of the Commission and the General Public as a victim of high-handed actions of Officials in OPM and Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development.
The meeting between Government Officials led by the Rt.Hon. Prime Minister and Mr Irumba resolved that Mr Steven Irumba retains the 425 hectares of Government land free-of-charge and that he should be assisted to process a legal title after Parliament degazettes the entire 48 square miles of the Kyaka 1 Government land. It also resolved that Mr Steven Irumba leaves out the 80 hectares where expellees from Tanzania are settled and that Hon. Minister Tom Butime organises a reconciliation meeting between Mr Irumba and his neighbours as soon as possible.
Surprisingly, Mr Steven Irumba has rejected even this recommendation and opted to isolating some civil servants and Ministers who were innocently performing their duties for presentation to the Lands Inquiry Commission. I felt that the public needs to know these facts.
Writer is the minister for relief, disaster preparedness and refugees