Why are tenants turning their guns on landlords?

By Vision Reporter

Makukulu village in Kayonza sub-county, Kayunga district, has always been peaceful, with residents going about their chores without any problem. But today, many of them are on the run, following a Police crackdown on residents who killed a landlord.

By Joshua Kato

Makukulu village in Kayonza sub-county, Kayunga district, has always been peaceful, with residents going about their chores without any problem. But today, many of them are on the run, following a Police crackdown on residents who killed a landlord.

Samuel Bunjo, 32, was on August 15, killed by a mob when he went to survey his land in the area. The surveyors narrowly survived death.

Bunjo inherited the 800-acre land from his grandfather.

“He had not gone to evict tenants. He only wanted to open up the boundaries on the land and find out how many tenants were there,” says one of the relatives.

Ten suspects were arrested and charged.

Four landlords have been murdered by tenants in the last one month. The killings occurred in Mityana, Kayunga and Mukono districts.

Tycoon Abid Alam and a team that had been sent by the Vice-President, Prof. Gilbert Bukenya, to settle a land dispute, survived being lynched in Mityana and Mpugwe in Wakiso district, respectively.

Bunjo’s murder was the third in Kayunga. Another landlord, Livingstone Ssekamatte, was killed in the same area when he took a client to inspect the land, which he wanted to sell. When the tenants spotted him, they mobilised and killed him.

“We have been on this land since the 1970s. Landlords should compensate us before eviction. If they do not, attacks against them will continue,” says Misairi Mukasa of Bbaale.

Kayunga district is porous, with 80% of it under the Mailo land holding. The rest, especially in Galilaya, was classified as ‘waste’ and left under Government’s care.

But just like with land in Kibaale, many of the mailo land owners, many of whom own square miles of land, are not residents of Kayunga. In the early 1900s, areas of Bugerere in Kayunga were attacked by deadly flies which forced many people to flee, leaving big chunks of land deserted. Many of them did not go back, giving room to encroachers to take over. But as the value of land continues to rise, landlords are returning and claiming ownership.

There is no problem as long as the landlords are not selling. This is how the Basoga from across the Nile have settled in the area. There are also the Bagisu and Bagwere who are engaged in farming on leased land.

Apart from the tenants who were legally leased land by the landlords, others are illegally encroaching on land.

“I have land in Kayonza, Kayunga district, but I have failed to develop it because it has over 50 tenants,” says Margaret Lwanga, a resident.

To make matters worse, only 10 of the tenants are there legally.

“Others are immigrants from Rwanda. I do not know how to handle them,” she says.

Other illegal tenants in Kayunga are pastoralists who entered through Nakasongola district to Bbaale and Galilaya, which are part of the cattle corridor.

“They came and started grazing here. When we asked them who had authorised them to settle here, they said they had the support of the people from above,” says Erias Magambo, a resident.

In 2005, Brig. Henry Tumukunde had a hard time convincing residents to leave his land in the district. He later paid them off.

“Even Tumukunde would have found it difficult to pay off those tenants had it not been for his military background,” says Simon Mwanga of Kangulumira.

Land in Kayunga is cheap, with an acre going for sh200,000. This, according to landlords, may be small, but is better than earning nothing from their land.

“Today, it is difficult for the landlords to sell land because it is also a source of livelihood for the tenants,” says Mwanga.

Although some landlords have succeeded in selling their land, buyers have had little success in owning it. It also took Tumukunde a lot of effort to succeed.

“Tenants protesting eviction must follow the law,” says area MP Sulaiman Madada.

He is also against landlords who carry out illegal evictions.

“Due to the land insecurity, tenants cannot set up long-term projects,” he says.

Recently, the Inspector General of Police Maj. Gen Kale Kayihura visited the district and addressed the population. The residents complained that they are being evicted by gunmen and vowed to fight on.

Way forward
According to Madada, the best solution to the land wrangles is to help tenants pay off landlords. He says this has been done in many parts of his constituency.

“For instance, in Namirembe parish, Bbaale sub-county, I sat with the tenants and the landlord and agreed on a payment programme,” he says.

An account was opened in the local SACCO on which tenants regularly deposit money for the landlord.

The same was done in a dispute between the Rev. Dr. Kefa Ssempangi and residents of Namatala.

Madada attributes the conflicts to ignorance.

“Land here is cheap. An acre costs between sh100,000 and sh200,00. Given time, many tenants can raise this money. That is the way to go.”

Why are tenants turning their guns on landlords?