President Museveni has been petitioned by local leaders in Katanga, near Wandegeya in Kawempe division, to intervene in the probable displacement of nearly 50,000 villagers from their land by Makerere University.
Last month, Makerere University wrote to the group, stating that it had purchased land on Block 38, also known as Lower Katanga, and that it was ready to begin developing the site. This meant that occupants on the land would be evicted, putting the livelihoods of the people at risk.
Makerere University administration has been accused of employing extrajudicial measures to evict people from their bibanjas in a September 11 petition signed by area leaders led by Kawempe Division Councilor for Wandegeya Ward, Thomas Bagonza.
“I’d want to draw your attention to the fact that the Katanga valley is home to structures such as student dormitories, churches, washing stations, restaurants, shops, and a variety of other businesses. “We are pleading with you to intervene immediately in this case because the livelihoods of over 50,000 residents are at risk,” states the September 11 petition.
“There are 6400 houses in the region, with a total population of 50,000 people, including women, teenagers, and children. The majority are descendants of people who arrived in the area in the late 1950s.”
The petitioners claim that the bulk of the residents have structures that pay KCCA property taxes.
The organization claims that, despite court orders and directives, Makerere University has repeatedly ignored them in an attempt to illegally evict them from the land in Katanga.
The Katanga Valley land was occupied by four family members and their licensees in 2015, according to the High Court, who are now bona fide occupants whose rights are properly protected under land ownership regulations.
Jonathan Yosamu Masembe, Bulasio Buyisi, George Kalimu, and Samalie Nambogga are the four members of the Masembe family. They were in a legal battle with Makerere University and the Commissioner for Land Registration regarding the cancellation of their land titles and the university’s ownership of the land.
Makerere University has filed an appeal against the High Court’s verdict, which is presently being heard and decided by the Court of Appeal.
On August 11, however, Makerere University Vice Chancellor Prof Barnabas Nawangwe called leaders and concerned parties to a meeting on the disputed property to inform them of the university’s plans.
“The university is now prepared to begin some development initiatives on her land in lower Katanga,” said the university. Part of the letter written to the LC I chairman, Lower Katanga, the chairman Land guardians on Makerere land, and the LC3 councilor for representing Wandegeya parish at the division states, “I have no doubt that you will be interested in developments at the institution.”
Locals and their leaders claim that the university urged the KCCA Deputy Executive Director to order the destruction of residents’ structures and halt any further construction on plots 45 and 47 in Lower Katanga, despite the fact that the institution had violated the law.
The petition states, “The abovementioned plots do not exist in Katanga Valley, and there is no location designated as Lower Katanga.”
According to the petition, the university’s action is intended to single out one of them, Pastor Daniel Walugembe of Eternal Life Gospel Church, as a stumbling obstacle to their criminal activities.
The petition was also forwarded to the State House director of legal affairs and the head of legal affairs at the State House.
The development comes after Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago wrote to the KCCA technical wing, requesting that the planned evictions be halted to avoid disastrous effects.
“I am appalled at how the KCCA management team gets involved in instances involving court orders being disobeyed. Makerere University can pursue their appeal and persuade the justices to overrule the High Court’s decision,” Lukwago wrote in a letter dated September 2.
According to the law, traditional tenants have equitable interests in any piece of land in their possession, according to Lukwago, who also stated that the tenants cannot be evicted until the issue before the Court of Appeal is resolved.
“As the Vice Chancellor claims, Makerere University has no vacant land in Katanga Valley. As a result, because it is all occupied by bona fide inhabitants or customary tenants, the university’s only options are to compensate them in order for them to quit the land or encourage them to acquire leasehold or freehold interests,” he explained.