The military 4th division headquarters in Gulu district is embroiled in a bitter land row with 27 families claiming some parts the land on which the barracks is located. URN has seen a document signed by Maj. Gen Jerome Mugume, chairperson Military Land Board in the Ministry of Defence, among various correspondences committing government to duly compensate the affected families. However, the pledge is yet to come to pass years later.
The dispute covers the tactical 17th Air Defence Regiment whose geographical location within the huge military base is classified for security reasons.
The families say they lived on the ancestral land currently housing the air defence before the 1979 war against President Iddi Amin Dada displaced them. When some returned in 1986 and found the military occupying their property, their efforts to successfully pursue compensation were frustrated by the various conflicts that riddled the country thereafter. Northern Uganda was at war between 1986 and 2006.
Court in 2015 advised the parties to settle the matter outside court prompting the claimants to ask for billions of shillings in compensation, thanks to the return of peace to the region.
Among the claimants is the widow and 12 children of Adam Adira Orobi, former Panyangira clan leader in Madi, who also served as Provincial Commissioner of Northern Uganda under the leadership of one of his sons, Prince David Drici Nyenga.
Prince Drici Nyenga, an electrical technician says they have been waiting for the Ministry of Defence to initiate the out-of-court negotiation.
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Some of the claimants are in possession of various court and Gulu Municipal Council documents indicating their ownership of the land.
Drici says they are seeking in excess of shillings 18 billion in compensation for some 34 acres that their father owned there.
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The claims range from less than an acre to several significant sizes. Drici accuses the Ministry of Defence of failing to inspect the area in view of valuation and subsequent acquisition last year.
URN has seen a document signed by Maj. Gen Jerome Mugume, chairperson Military Land Board in the Ministry of Defence, among various correspondences committing government to duly compensate the affected families. However, the pledge is yet to come to pass years later.
Other documents from Gulu Municipal Council confirm that some of the claimants owned land where the installation is located as early as the 1950s.
A reliable source within the military who preferred anonymity told Uganda Radio Network that the Ministry of Defence is exercising due diligence to dispose of the matter "once and for all".
"To prevent compensating the wrong individuals, the ministry requested the various families to organise common letters of administration to prevent other individuals from claiming the same pieces of land in the future," the source said warning that only claimants with valid documents will benefit.
Lt. Hassan Ahmad Kato, the UPDF 4th Division spokesperson has confirmed the demands for compensation. He however says the size of the property could have been over inflated.
"The military and the Ministry of Defence are considering several issues around the claims including the size of the property and verification of the true identities of the claimants amongst others.
Lt. Kato urged the claimants to be patient as the matter is handled.
The facility is not the first government institution to be embroiled in land dispute in post conflict northern Uganda. Several education, health and administrative units have also been affected with some claimants saying their ancestors donated the property in dispute without their consent.
Such claims have prompted government to process titles for every public institution to safeguard them from future disputes.