President wishes Kenyans peaceful elections, halts land evictions

Thursday 28th February 2013

President Yoweri Museveni has said that the Kenyan elections will not affect business in Uganda because the country now has an alternative route to the coast, adding that both Kenya and Uganda are more prepared than ever before to avoid the violence that led to disruption of business during 2008 general elections. He also wished Kenyans a peaceful election The President was yesterday responding to various questions by journalists during a press conference on land disputes and land grabbing in Uganda at his country home in Rwakitura, Nyabushozi county Kiruhuura district yesterday.

The President also said he is yet to receive an update on details of talks between the M23 rebels and the Congolese government, saying he is yet to get a report from the Vice President Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi whom he delegated to the Ethiopian Capital Addis Ababa for the signing of the “Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the DRC and the Region” and from the Minister of Defence Dr. Crispus Kiyonga who has been chairing the talks in Uganda.

During the press conference, President Yoweri Museveni directed the immediate halting of all land evictions involving Bibanja holders and said that anyone caught evicting peasants illegally by taking advantage of their ignorance of the law or by intimidating them will be severely penalized in accordance with the law and compels them to compensate their victims. He noted that failure by government to protect people’s private property may be counterproductive and affect land productivity and the country’s economic growth.

The President however used the occasion to caution citizens against trespassing on other citizen’s private property and said once this is the case and where a court order has been secured, the government will help the land owners to evict the encroachers. He noted that the majority of the victims are Ugandans from Buganda region who have been evicted by people he described as, `bayaye’ who live in towns and those who obtained money from the government in wrong ways. He noted that these people pretend to be investors and developers but collude with the RDC’s, Police, and Magistrates among others to evict the people in spite of the government warnings against evictions. He said genuine investors negotiate with the people to buy land on a willing buyer, willing seller basis. Mr. Museveni sighted the examples of Wakiso district and the surrounding villages where 4000 families have been evicted by the people who do not care about the state of other people sufferings.

He said that there is no legal basis for eviction if the person who occupied the land does not want to evacuate the land. ’Legally no one can evict you if you do not want to leave land,’ he said. The President gave an in-depth background to the genesis of the land problem in Uganda especially in Buganda, Ankole, Toroo and and Bunyoro, adding that while President Idi Amin had totally abolished mailo land in his decree of 1975, the National Resistance government returned the mailo land to the owner but sought the return to the 1928 colonial arrangement that would guarantee the tenants right to land while recognizing the status of the landlord.

He said that although the above was emphasized in the 1995 constitution, the land law of 1998 and the land amendment act of 2008; the land lords taking advantage of the ignorance of the peasants, with the corrupt court officials, security officials and in some case the RDC’S continue to illegally evict peasants from their Bibanja, an act he said was unacceptable and should stop. The President said that he had appointed a mobile committee headed by the state minister for lands M/s Nantaba Aida that will traverse the whole country resettling illegally evicted bibanja holders and called on the affected people not to take the law in their own hands but to wait for the verification of the committee with the help of the police to avoid stop citizen to citizen conflict that may result into unnecessary shedding of blood.

He further cautioned Ugandans from encroaching on government land that include forestry reserves, game parks, swamps and government ranches and said that government will evict all those on government land without compensation. He said that government will intensify the mobilization of the land fund so that it is able to pay off the land lord and do away with dual land ownership status in the country. (Please see attached full statement by the President).

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