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    UWA, NFA On Spot For Not Compensating Batwa After Eviction…

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    Court has ruled that the government is responsible for the suffering of the Batwa after failing to compensate them for their land which was turned into central forest reserves and national parks in South western Uganda.

    According to the court, the Batwa were evicted from their areas and the government gazetted them into Echuya Central Forest Reserve, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.

    In an unanimous judgement, the judges; Fredrick Egonda-Ntende, Elizabeth Musoke, Cheborion Barishaki, Muzamiru Kibeedi and Irene Mulyagonja ruled that the Batwa had interest in the suit in Kabale and Kisoro because it is their original title.

    “The Batwa have been left disadvantaged, owing to their eviction from the said land, and also due to the nonpayment to them of adequate compensation which would have facilitated their relocation to similar lands. This has rendered them landless and has severely affected not only their livelihoods but has destroyed their identity, dignity and self-worth as a people and as equal citizens with other Ugandans,” Justice Musoke ruled in a lead judgment.

    The Court ruled that marginalization of Batwa has arisen due to their eviction from the present day forest lands without payment of compensation and that they are now relegated to a lesser class of citizens, inherently landless and fated to be encroachers on other people’s land.

    Justice Musoke observed that the Batwa people presented evidence that is more compelling because it charts the history of Batwa and their connection to the respective lands better than Attorney General and Uganda Wildlife Authority – UWA and National Forestry Authority – NFA.

    “I reiterate that the Batwa are a group of individuals who have been marginalized on the basis of historical reasons following their eviction from the relevant lands without adequate compensation being paid to them. I find that no adequate compensation was paid to the Batwa despite the fact that some monies were paid in about 1991,” the judge observed.

    The court decision resulted from a petition in which a charitable organization and eleven individuals accused the government and her bodies of evicting, actions of excluding and dispossessing them from their ancestral forest lands which compromised their physical and cultural integrity and survival as indigenous people.

    Through their lawyer Owor Onyango of Onyango  and Company Advocates, the Batwa successfully argued that the government contravened both local and international laws in contravention of their rights to life, property, self-determination, freely dispose, wealth, natural resources and means of subsistence.

    The petition was filed by local body; United Organisation for Batwa Development in Uganda and eleven individuals who include Elias Habyarimana, Jovanis Nyiragasigwa, Christopher Kagundu, Night Isabela, Eric Tumuheirwe, Abel Kasumba, Abe Ruzuga, David Kakuru, Geoffrey Mahano, Alice Nyamihanda and Allen Musabyi.

    Counsel Onyango argued that the actions of government have since resulted in widespread displacement, exploitation, exclusion and marginalization of Batwa in the communities they resettled in in contravention of their right to equality without discrimination.

    They petitioned the Attorney General, Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and National Forestry Authority (NFA). The Batwa are people with a population of about 6000 individuals, majority of whom live in the south western Uganda districts of Kanungu, Kisoro and Kabale. Court documents show that their land at current Echuya Forest, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park are situated was Batwa Ancestral land which was customarily owned by the Batwa for many years before the declaration of British Protectorate on Uganda.

    The petitioners told the Constitutional Court that since the 1930s to the present day, successive governments have dispossessed them from their ancestral lands on which relevant protected areas were established.

    They argued that the government acts include the creation of Mgahinga Gorilla Sanctuary, the creation of two crown forest reserves in Bwindi area which was subsequently amalgamated and converted to a Game Reserve at Echuya.

    Court heard that the Batwa were not consulted prior to the setting up of the protected areas on land they owned and that no compensation was paid to them after extinguishing their interests in the land issue.

     

    By Sengooba Alirabaki

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    CRIME

    Katanga Residents, Leaders Plead For Protection After Makerere University Threatens To Evict Them…

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    Bagonza the chairperson Busia zone

    Residents and leaders on the disputed land in Katanga suburb, Kawempe Division have appealed to authorities to protect them from threats of eviction by Makerere University.

    Led by the local leaders of Busia and Kimwanyi Local Council areas in Wandegeya Parish, the residents said that they are legally occupying their binanja after the High Court declared them bonafide occupants on the contested land.

    In 2015, High Court Judge Owiny Dollo, now the Chief Justice ruled that the Katanga Valley land was occupied by four family members and based on their licenses, they are now bonafide occupants whose rights are well protected under the laws governing ownership of land.

    In his ruling, Justice Dollo noted that the four families are Jonathan Yosamu Masembe, Bulasio Buyisi, George Kalimu and Samalie Nambogga.

    They were battling with Makerere University and the Commissioner for Land registration over the cancellation of their Land titles and ownership of the land by Makerere University.

    Makerere University disagreed with Dollo’s judgment and appealed the ruling in the Court of Appeal. The appeal is pending hearing and determination.

    It is alleged that Makerere University has on several occasions run to various offices asking for help and permission to destroy buildings and evict more than 50,000 residents including bibanja holders without following the due process of the law.

    In a joint statement, leaders led by the chairman of Busia Zone, Abdu Ssekajja, asked the authorities to restrain Makerere University authorities to desist from misleading the public about their stay on Katanga land.

    “We have read reports and statements calling us land grabbers but I want to put the record clear that we are binanja holders and the court ruled that we are occupying this land legally,” Ssekajja said.

    He further appealed to Makerere University authorities to prosecute their appeal rather than resorting to illegal means.

    According to Ssekajja, before making his ruling, justice Dollo visited the land and interacted with all parties before making his decision which remains in force until a higher court rules otherwise.

    He told reporters at their Local Council Offices in Katanga that all Makerere University has to do is to follow the legal procedure in order to resolve the dispute.

    His remarks follow an outcry in the media by Makerere University authorities who appealed to the government to come to their rescue and save their 10-acres of land in Katanga.

    In October last year, the High Court had to stop security agencies from arresting Katanga land occupants led by Pastor Daniel Walugembe in regards to the same dispute.

    Kampala City lord Mayor Erias Lukwago also asked Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) technical wing to halt the impending evictions in Katanga near Wandegeya to stave off what he described as undesired consequences.

    In a September 2nd, 2021 letter to the KCCA Executive Director, Mr. Lukwago warned that it will be a glaring breach of law for the physical planning directorate and the building control board to issue demolition orders and approve plans submitted by Makerere University before the Court of Appeal pronounces itself on the matter.

    “I am utterly shocked at the way KCCA management team gets embroiled in matters involving flouting of court orders” Lukwago noted.

    Lukwago said that matters concerning Katanga Valley land have been a subject of protracted legal battles stretching from 1993 to date.

    On September 15, Internal Affairs Minister, Maj. Gen. (Rtd) Kahinda Otafiire, directed the Inspector General of Police to guide members of the force to refrain from interfering with court orders not only in Katanga land matters but also in matters of similar nature.

    “Where a party is aggrieved, he or she should not use the Police force and the police force should not allow it to be used to defy a court order. The only course of action such a party should take should be to move to court to make a ruling on the matter,” Gen Otafiire wrote.

     

    By Hope Kalamira

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    Drama In Makerere Medical Student Murder Trial, State Asks Judge To Throw Lawyers Alaka, Ochieng Out…

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    There was drama today at Mukono court during the hearing of a case in which Mathew Kirabo is on trial for the murder 19-year-old Makerere medical student Desire Mirembe.

    It all started when state prosecutor Ainebyona Happiness complained to the trial judge His Lordship Henry Kaweesa Isabirye about the new advocates who joined the defense team.

    Happiness expressed her dissatisfaction at the presence of counsel Caleb Alaka and counsel Evans Ochieng who joined Counsel Charles Dalton Opunya and counsel Ali Hassan Kato as defense lawyers.

    Happiness read to court the law which defines the act that was being done by the defense lawyers and asked the judge to guide her on that matter.

    “The Advocates conduct regulations 2 of the advocates Si267-2 indicates that no advocate shall represent any person without receiving instructions from that person,” she stated.

    This was however challenged by defense lawyer Dalton Opunya who claimed that regulation 2 of the advocates professional conduct Si267-2 allows the authorised agent of the accused person to allow other lawyers to participate.

    “My Lord, we were instructed to handle this matter. We agreed that I get other lawyers to assist us. I believe unless guided otherwise that I am authorised to add in lawyers with regulation Si267-2. We pray that the court continues with the current setup of four lawyers of the accused,” Counsel Opunya said.

    When the judge made a ruling on that matter, he said that the two counsels joined not as fully instructed counsels but as assistants.

    “I therefore instruct for purposes of this case and in the interest of proceeding forward that the two lawyers only play a peripheral role of assisting both counsels Opunya and Kato,” Judge Henry Isabirye ruled.

    The two counsels consented to the ruling.

    When the case proceeded, the judge asked the defense counsels to put their submissions in writing. They asked for more time.

    The judge later granted them more time to put their submissions in writing and also serve the State. He also gave State the whole day tomorrow upto 4:00PM to serve the defence counsels.

    The judge adjourned the matter to 28th, January, 2022 for a ruling of whether or not the suspect, Kirabo, has a murder case to answer or not.

     

    By Hope Kalamira

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    UPDF Officer Who Shot Traffic Officer For Towing His Car On The Run…

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    A traffic officer was on Sunday morning shot by Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) soldier who was trying to block police from hauling his vehicle that was involved in an accident.

    Police Constable (PC) Robert Mukebezi shot in the leg while seated at the passenger side of a breakdown truck that was towing a military Toyota Prado TX vehicle that had knocked a sign post of Kobil petrol station in Naalya, a Kampala suburb.

    Narrating what happened, Mukebezi said that soldiers emerged from a double cabin and first shot the air. They asked Mukebezi where they were towing their car to. They told the soldiers that they were towing it to police.

    One of the soldiers shot several bullets on the passenger side of the breakdown injuring Constable Mukebezi in the leg.

    Witnesses said that the soldiers allegedly dragged the bleeding officer out of the vehicle and dumped him on the ground before ordering the driver of the breakdown to drive the wreckage to Mbuya police.

    PC Mukebezi was later picked by fellow police officers and taken to Mulago National Referral Hospital in a critical condition having lost a lot of blood.

    Deputy Spokesperson for Kampala Metropolitan police Luke Owoyesigyire confirmed the shooting of their officer by unidentified persons dressed in ‘military fatigue’.

    “The investigations are on going to establish the shooter,” he added.

    In a twist of events, the UPDF Acting Spokesperson Lt. Col. Ronald Kakurungu has released a statement on the matter saying that investigations are on going.

    “The UPDF has learned about an incident in which one of our soldiers is suspected to have been shot and injured a traffic police officer in Ntinda following a single minor road traffic accident,” the statement read.

    “Preliminary information indicates that there was a misunderstanding between the traffic officer and soldier regarding recovery of a military vehicle that was involved in an accident,” he said.

    Mr. Kakurungu further indicated that in the process, the traffic officer was shot and injured in the leg. He was quickly rushed to Mulago Hospital.

    He also noted that Mukebezi has stabilised and is now out of danger.

    “The suspect is still on the run, but a search for him is underway and very useful clues leading to his arrest have already been obtained.”

    “UPDF and Uganda Police have also launched joint investigations into the unfortunate incident,” Lt. Col. Kakurungu added.

     

    By Hope Kalamira

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