Minister Namuganza Denies Personal Interest in Mubende Land Evictions

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In short
When asked by the Commission Lead Counsel, Ebert Byenkya to explain her involvement in the matter, Namuganza said President Museveni met the warring parties on June 11th 2018 and that he was only interested in the welfare of the Bibanja holders.

The Lands State Minister, Persis Namuganza has denied any personal interest in the contentious eviction of 3,000 bibanja holders from three-square miles of land hosting 16 villages in Mubende district. The affected villages include among others Nakasagazi, Kibalagazi, Kakakanembe, Bukyamuzi, Kisombe and Mulanda.

The Minister made the denial while appearing before the
Justice Catherine Bamugemereire on Tuesday to explain circumstances under which she brokered a deal that saw some of the eviction victims and suspected land grabber, Milly Naava meet President, Yoweri Museveni at State House in Entebbe in June this year.

The Commission is investigating a petition filed against Naava over the eviction of the affected families. Information before the Commission shows that the disputed land belonged to Edith Nakabugo, who bequeathed it to her 15 children prior to her death in 2007. Nakabugo, who was an only-child, inherited the disputed land from her late father, Zakaliya Kikonyogo.

But Naava, a daughter to one of the 15 beneficiaries has since repossessed part of the land and evicted tenants.  Herman Byakatonda, one of the eviction victims told the Commission last week that Naava attempted to con President, Yoweri Museveni of Shillings 4 billion by claiming ownership of the disputed three-square-mile piece of land. 

Byakatonda alleged that the transaction had been facilitated by State Minister for Lands Persis Namuganza and Mubende Woman MP, Benny Namugwanya.  He also told the Commission that Naava keeps in the company of security personnel led by Major Eric Kigambwoha, whom she reportedly uses to intimidate villagers.
When asked by the Commission Lead Counsel, Ebert Byenkya to explain her involvement in the matter, Namuganza said President Museveni met the warring parties on June 11th 2018 and that he was only interested in the welfare of the Bibanja holders.
She explained that the meeting followed a directive by the president to her to compile a report on their field visit to Kitule on December 17th 2017 with the then Inspector General of Police-IGP, Kale Kayihura. Namuganza says she only intervened to resolve the conflict between the Bibanja holders and the landlords.

"As the President chaired the meeting, some of the family members started claiming ownership of the land. But the President explained to them that he had called the meeting to resolve the issue between the landlords and the bibanja holders who had been evicted," said Namuganza. 

She told the Commission that during the meeting President Museveni demanded for names of the army officers who purportedly connived with Naava to intimidate the bibanja holders. Asked how president, Museveni arrived at the decision to meet the warring parties, Namuganza said prior to the State House meeting, Museveni had appeared on a radio talk show in Mubende in September 2017 where several people complained against Naava.
Byenkya also asked Namuganza to explain the Shillings 4 billion payment demand by purported land owners from Museveni. She denied knowledge of the demand, saying the issue of compensation was looked and the meeting concluded that the responsible government offices take it up.

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Justice Catherine Bamugemereire asked Namuganza whether she addressed herself to the complexities of the land dispute before briefing the President about the matter.

In her response, Namuganza said she just did what the President directed her to do leaving Bamugemereire to question whether a minister cannot caution the President since she has an advisory role to the President.

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In September last year, Naava appeared before the Commission to respond to accusations of evicting bibanja holders and was branded an imposter. She was detained for allegedly trying to conceal information and giving unsatisfactory answers.
Last week, Justice Bamugemereire issued arrest warrants for Naava and Blasio Lule for shunning several summons to appear before the Commission.


About the author

Olive Nakatudde
Olive Nakatudde is a URN journalist based in Kampala. Nakatudde has been a URN staff member since 2013.

Nakatudde started out in journalism in 2009 with Dembe FM radio in Kampala. In 2012, Nakatudde joined Voice of Africa as a political reporter. She has been a photographer since her journalism school days at Makerere University.

Nakatudde is interested in good governance and public policy, which she reports on intensively from the Uganda Parliament. She is a keen follower of cultural affairs in Buganda Kingdom and covers the kingdom's Lukiiko (parliament). Nakatudde also reports on education and health.