Edward Ochom, the Director of Criminal Investigations is leading a team of investigators probing cases of land grabbing in Bulambuli district. The investigations stem from a petition filed by four hundred former internally displaced people whose customary land has been grabbed and sold by area politicians. John Stephen Otim the commissioner in-charge of anti-corruption unit says that the investigations is in response to recommendations made by a commission setup by government which early this year investigated land grabbing claims in Bulambuli district. Otim says that the commission had found out that about 400 people who fled their homes in the 70's due to cattle rustling returned back in 2006 but found their land had been surveyed and sold by local politicians. Otim says investigators will take formal statements from the claimants which will be used as a basis for prosecution. He says the politicians used the Bulambuli Sub-county land committee to sanction the illegal transaction. The claimants allege that some of the people who grabbed and sold their land include William Masolo the Bulambuli Sub-county National Resistance Movement Chairperson, Peter Mukanda and the Sub-county LC3 Vice Chairperson, Stephen Lukola. Others include Simon Ocom, Robert Mutembo and John Masaba. The group is accused of grabbing and selling 18,000 acres of land to a private company called Amora Investments. Amora intends to plant pine trees on the 18,000 acres. They also sold a further 1,558 acres of land to Mbale Municipal Council. Mbale Municipal Council purchased the land to exchange with National Forestry Authority for Mbale Central Forest Reserve where the town intends to expand. Investigators on Tuesday grilled the Mbale Town Clerk Norbert Turyahikayo and his staff for more than eight hours on how they purchased the contested land. Juma Muyonga a resident of Kata village is among the people who lost their land to the scam. For Muyonga his 150 acres were fraudulently to Amora Investments by William Masolo the Sub-county movement chairperson. // Cue in: "If they are taking..." Cue out "...tears were just coming out, no one no help" // Bosco Kissa who lost 60 acres explains that William Masolo came with a group of people who photographed him and promised to buy his land at shillings 1.4million shillings per acre. He says that Masolo later came and told him that Mbale Municipal Council could only pay him shillings 200,000 per acre. He says he rejected the offer but instead Masolo went ahead and sold the 60 acres and declined to give him even a penny. He says they mobilized and reported the matter to the office of the regional internal security organization but no action was taken. Kiisa says they had warned the town clerk Norbert Turyahikayo not to deal with the land grabbers but he went ahead and paid for the land. 43-year-old Patrick Masaka wonders why the buyers could not question how one person could own 3000 acres in a place without mailo land. // Cue in: "How comes were you not having neighbors..." Cue out "...end of the rising of the man" // The accused have not yet responded to the accusations as they could not be reached for a comment.
Updated: 18 Aug, 18:3718:37