Rakai Residents Demand Occupation of Ssesamirembe Free Trade Zone Land

8239 Views Rakai town, Uganda

In short
Ssesamirembe fails to establish Multi-Billion Free Trade Zone in Rakai. Residents demand to take over land proposed for the industries.

After a failure by Ssesamirembe to establish a planned Free Trade Zone in Rakai district, a group of farmers there are demanding to take over the gazetted land for their agricultural productivity.

About 8000 farmers in Kabira, and Kakeeto Sub Counties in Rakai district, are planning to occupy the land.

In January 2006, the Government of Uganda signed a compressive Memorandum of Understanding Kagera Eco-Cities Limited, the umbrella organisation of Ssesamirembe, for the establishment of a free trade zone. The Memorandum of Understanding granted the eco-city powers of a municipality and a charter based on international best practices of governance.

Then in 2008, Rakai district gave Joseph Mugonza locally known as Bambi Baaba Babuwe, the proprietor of Ssesamirembe about 10 square kilometers of land in the district on which he  planned to establish a multi-billion-shilling Free Trade Zone in the area.

But Ssesamirembe wanted Government to give them more 200 square miles of land which would be administered under separate structures. In its plan, Ssesamirembe claimed that the arrangement was geared towards supporting small and medium-sized enterprises to link up with global markets in the manufacturing and production sector.

Ssesamirembe wanted to set up electronic industries, pharmaceutical industries, telecommunications, agricultural and biomedical industries.  However, now a group of residents from Kachanga, Kasasa, and Kakuuto, some of the areas covered under the proposed Ssesamirembe Free Trade Zone are demanding occupation of this land for agricultural productivity.

Agnes Namusiitwa, the Rakai LC5 councilor representing Kakuuto Sub County says cattle keepers and farmers are planning to petition Rakai district seeking permission to allow them take over Ssesamirembe land since it lies idle. Namusiitwa explains that about 5000 residents in Kakuuto are currently facing land crisis yet Ssesamirembe land lies idle.

Namusiitwa says they want Rakai district council to allow them settle and utilize the land to improve agricultural productivity since Ssesamirembe has failed to show any signs of establishing a much anticipated multi-billion city. Namusiitwa also claims that the residents have lost hope for Ssesamirembe after they discovered that China wanted to grab their land and use it to settle some of her people there under the guise of establishing a free trade zone.

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Rose Mary Nassejje, one of the residents says failure by Ssesamirembe to put up any development at its cave and shrine located in Kabira sub county shows that these investors were up to something else but not investment. Nasejje says Rakai district should immediately allow its people to utilize the land to promote food security through agriculture instead of keeping it idle.
According to Nasejje, Rakai residents have failed to utilize the rainy season to grow more food because Ssesamirembe had stopped them from conducting any agricultural activity on its land.  Nasejje says Rakai district is at risk of food scarcity because many people have no land for cultivation.

Joy Mukisa, the Rakai district Council Speaker says they want government to immediately release a report conducted by the commission of inquiry established by President Museveni to investigate Ssesamirembe before any action is taken.

In 2008, President Museveni set up a commission of inquiry to investigate the activities of Joseph Mugonza, who is also the leader Serulanda Spiritual Foundation. The commission, headed by Prof. Nelson Sewankambo, came as a result of some reports which suggested that Serulanda was a religious cult. But the commission's report has never been released.

Mukisa says many people are still speculating on what the aim of Ssesamirembe was and this has tainted its image.
Mukisa suggests that Government needs to release the report for the people to know other than keeping them making their own conclusions and guess work.