Local leaders in Katanga, near Wandegeya in Kawempe division have petitioned President Museveni to intervene in the impending eviction of over 50,000 locals from their land by Makerere University.
Makerere University last month wrote to the group saying it had acquired the land located on Block 38 commonly referred to as Lower Katanga and that it was ready to embark on developing the land and this consequently meant that occupants on the land would be evicted and consequently, livelihoods of the locals will be at stake.
However, in a September 11 petition signed by the area leaders led by Kawempe Division Councilor for Wandegeya Ward, Thomas Bagonza , Makerere University administration has been accused of using extra judicial means to evict them from their bibanjas.
“I wish to draw your attention to the fact that the entire Katanga valley has got structures such as student hostels, churches, washing bays, restaurants, shops and all sorts of businesses. We are appealing to you to urgently intervene in the matter as the livelihoods of over 50,000 residents are at stake,” reads the petition dated September 11.
“The area has got 6400 households and 50,000 people including women, youth and children. The majority are offsprings of persons who settled in the area way back in the late 1950s.”
The petitioners say majority of the occupants have structures that pay property rate taxes to KCCA.
The group alleges that despite court decisions and directives, Makerere University has on several occasions disregarded the same in a bid to unlawfully evict them from the said land in Katanga.
In 2015, the High Court ruled that the Katanga Valley land was occupied by four family members and their licensees who are now bonafide occupants whose rights are well protected under the laws governing ownership of land.
The four family members are Jonathan Yosamu Masembe, Bulasio Buyisi, George Kalimu and Samalie Nambogga. They were battling with Makerere University and the Commissioner for Land registration over cancellation of their Land titles and ownership of the land by Makerere University.
Makerere University appealed against the decision faulting the High Court in a matter that is currently pending hearing and determination before the Court of Appeal.
However, on August 11, Makerere University Vice Chancellor Prof Barnabas Nawangwe invited the leaders and concerned stakeholders on the disputed land inviting them to update them about the university’s planned developments.
“The university is now ready to embark on some development activities on her land in lower Katanga. I have no doubt that that you will be interested in developments at the university,” reads part of the letter addressed to the LC I chairman, Lower Katanga, the chairman Land guardians on Makerere land and the LC3 councilor for representing Wandegeya parish at the division.
The locals and their leaders insist that in total disregard to the courts of law, the university asked the KCCA Deputy Executive Director to cause removal of structures of residents and stop any further developments on plots 45 and 47 at Lower Katanga.
“The said plots do not exist in Katanga Valley and there is no area known as Lower Katanga,” reads the petition.
According to the petition, the move by the university seeks to target individuals among them, one Pastor Daniel Walugembe of Eternal Life Gospel Church who is perceived as stumbling block to their nefarious acts.
The petition was also copied to the State House head of legal matters and the State House director on legal matters.
The development comes on the backdrop of a letter by the Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago who asked the KCCA technical wing to halt the impending evictions to stave off the undesired catastrophic consequences.
“I am utterly at the way KCCA management team gets embroiled in matters involving flouting of court orders. Makerere University can pursue their appeal and convince the justices to overturn the High Court judgement,”Lukwago said in a September 2 letter.
In the letter, Lukwago said that according to the law, customary tenants have equitable interests in any piece of land in their possession, adding that until the case at Court of Appeal is disposed of, the tenants can’t be evicted.
“Makerere University has no vacant land in Katanga Valley as alleged by the Vice Chancellor. It therefore follows that since it is all occupied by bonafide occupants or customary tenants, the only remedies available for the university is to either compensate them in order to vacate the land or to persuade them to acquire leasehold or freehold interests,” he said.