- Toro Citizens reject land amendment Bill, walk-out on Minister
- Kabarole Woman MP Heckled
- Hundreds vow to protect their land
By John Murungi Amooti
Kagote SDA Hall, Fort Portal
The crimson skyline over Fort Portal town ebbed-in well, with the animated-but anxious faces of the hundreds of citizens at the sprawling Kagote SDA Hall. The Hair Temple-lines on their faces connoted very disturbed and angry citizens-and more so exudation of determination. They all cast a picture of citizens on a mission. They poured into the hall with as much mercurial precision –and with zeal and gusto to resist the proposed land amendment by the government
This was the mood and tone at KRC and partners organized Public Debate as the central government moves to amend Article 26 (B) of the 1995 Constitution, and other attendant Laws like the Land Act and Land Acquisitions Act, to cater for inter alia, compulsory acquisition of Land even in circumstances where the owners have not consented to the monetary compensation assessed by the government valuer.
KRC with financial support from DGF teamed up with its partners like Kind-Uganda, Toro Dev,) and Isaazi Lyabantu Bakuru Ba Tooro to organize the public debate that was attended by over 1,000 people who included; political and technical leaders, Elders, CSOs, religious leaders, youths, women, media houses and many citizens who were suffering by non compensation by government.. The main objectives of the debate were to sensitize the local leaders and the general public on the rationale of the proposed amendment and also to consult and generate citizens views so as to develop a harmonized issues paper to guide the debate in parliament on the Bill
Almost all the citizens who took to the microphone castigated the proposed amendment and appealed to the government to stay the amendment but rather work on issues of expedition of settling disputes regarding compensation in cases of government taking over people’s land.
Former Tooro Kingdom Prime Minister, Hon Stephen Irumba giving a moving account of what he termed as government betrayal of the sacrifices Tooro People made in the Liberation struggle. He lamented to the audience on how government had grabbed over 200 acres of Land in Kyegegwa and used it to resettle refugees –without even consulting –let alone consulting him. He called upon citizens of Toro to wake up and oppose any moves to grab their land.
“Uganda already has adequate legal regime and strong institutional and policy framework like the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, The Land Acquisition Act, The Registration of Titles Act and other Laws and formidable institutions like the courts of Judicature, which provide for land ownership, land disputes and management in Uganda. Why this new bill? As the framers of the current constitution, we did adequate consulations when coming up with the Provisions under Article 26(B)’ Said Mr. John Tigwezire, a former CA Delegate Representing Bunyangabu, Kabarole District.
The debate had a panel discussion that comprised; Hon Muwanga Kivumbi, MP Butambala, Hon Sylivia Rwabwogo, Woman MP Kabarole District, Hon. Robert Centenary, MP Kasese Municipality, Rev Fr Pascal Kabura and Mr. Patrick Muzinduki who represented the Civil Society.
Almost all the members of the panel, save for Hon Sylvia Rwabwoogo were against the Bill(she was also later to change her position after facing a backlash from the audience). Hon Muwanga Kivumbi even suggested that it was time for citizens to ‘raise –up’ and ‘redeem’ their country from what he termed as ‘the NRM dictatorship. He also said it was a duty of every citizen to join the struggle to correct the wrongs
‘Every Generation has its mission. Museveni and his colleagues had a mission to rid Uganda of Obote and his group, now our mission is to restore democracy and protect our land from land grabbers’ said the tough talking legislator from Butambala, who once challenged the Law on public assemblies through his landmark case, Muwanga Kivumbi VS Attorney General
The participants included; Members of Parliament, LC5 Chairperson, CAO, Cultural leaders, Land owners, Tenants, CSO leaders, farmers, entrepreneurs, teachers and students from the Districts of Kabarole, Bundibugyo, Kamwenge, Kyegegwa, Kyenjojo, Kasese and Ntoroko
The hundreds of participants resolved that they would defend their land to the end. That the current Article 26 (B) was adequate enough and should not be amended
The participants also called upon government to curb the rampant corruption among its officials. They said the problem of land was exacerbated by corruption. The visibly agitated citizens also urged government to cater for speedy registration of land
There was also a concern by the participants over the speculators in government. It was noted that shrewd civil servants-who are privy to the government infrastructure plans rush to areas where government is about to set up these developments, acquire land cheaply-and then get hundreds of Billions as compensation from government.
The various debators also asked government to give all the support to the current Land probe committee headed by Justice Bamugemereire to complete its work
In his remarks Father Dr Pascal Kabura further urged the president of Uganda whose cardinal role is to protect and defend the constitution to join the fight against amendment of Article 26(b) of the constitution
There was also an uproar when the Kabarole Women Member of Parliament Hon Slyvia Rwabwogo took to the Microphone. The whole crowd went frenzy as they heckled and booed her- accusing her of being a proponent of the Land amendment. It took the intervention of the organizers to calm down the charged crowd, for the MP to continue her submission
When she was called to give the government position on the Bill, the Minister of Lands did not mince words but told the audience that as government, they would go ahead and amend the Law, albeit having listened to the views from the citizens. This however seemed not have been well understood by the already charged participants. They began murmuring, while others walked out on the Minisiter’s Speech.
In his closing remarks, the Director of KRC-UGANDA Mr. Julius Mwanga appreciated the enormous ideas put forth by the citizens and also thanked the members of the Panel for their contributions to the debate. He also thanked the State Minister of Land for having attended the debate. Mr. Mwanga also gave tribute to Kabarole District Chairperson Mr. Richard Rwabuhinga for having played a role in inviting the Minister to attend the function. The Director also informed the Minister that a similar debate would be organized in Kasese District to seek citizens views on the proposed amendment. The Kasese Municipality MP, Robert Centenary used the opportunity to invite the Minister to be part of the debate
The Land Amendment Public Debate is part of the many efforts by KRC and its partners in Advocacy to create citizens platforms to engage in matters of public concern and engage government to perform to their aspirations. This initiative is mainly financially supported by the Democratic Governance Facility (DGF).