The Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) is to evict more than 200 residents who settled on its land in Lukaya Town Council, Kalungu District.
Daily Monitor has reliably learnt that the Ministry of Defence issued a notice of eviction to the tenants through the district authorities by instructing all ‘encroachers’ to vacate the land with immediate effect.
The controversial land, measuring 463.43 hectares, is part of Bulakati Army Airstrip land and it comprises Mwota Block 181, Kirinnya Block 184, Lukaya Block 185, Kalungi Block 145 and Kawanda Block 146.
According to Lt Ninsiima Rwemijuma, the Masaka Armoured Brigade spokesperson, a portion of the army land was illegally grabbed by some people who later sold it to unsuspecting residents.
“What I know is that the land belongs to us [army] and we have a detachment on it. Anybody who claims ownership over it or its part, is an encroacher,” he said by telephone on Tuesday.
He said the UPDF are working closely with all parties involved to ensure that all encroachers vacate the land peacefully.
The disputed land, according to Lt Ninsiima, was acquired in the 1970s by government from private individuals for purposes of national security.
However, he said, the then government did not register a title as it was the practice then (most military institutions were never surveyed and titled).
Mr Edrisa Kigozi, one of the affected residents, said the land initially belonged to the army, but later Lukaya Town Board took over management of part of the land when the army abandoned it after the 1979 liberation war, which ushered in the Obote II regime.
“The residents and I, then bought pieces of this land and we acquired general receipts from Lukaya Town Board, which was the care taker,” Mr Kigozi said.
According to Mr Bonny Kiddu Ssali, the former chairperson Lukaya Town Council and also one of those facing eviction, Lukaya Town Council passed a resolution in the 1990s to use the land and also established a market on it which was commissioned by the then vice president Specioza Kazibwe.
“Lukaya Town Council irregularly parcelled out 115.8 hectares and allocated part of it to individuals who put up residential and commercial houses, while part of the remaining land was used to establish public facilities,” Mr Kiddu said.
Mr Kiddu insists that residents never encroached on the land as claimed by the army since they were given plots by Lukaya Town authorities.
“Where was the army for all those years when people were acquiring plots of the land? If the army wants residents to vacate that land, they must follow the right procedures,” he said.
Ms Aisha Kitenda, the Lukaya Town clerk, admitted that her predecessors parcelled out part of the army land to private developers and also put up public facilities and urged the army to engage all stakeholders before carrying out the eviction.
“That land houses Lukaya Health Centre III, Lukaya Prisons and a market. So, we will also be affected if they just go ahead and evict people,” she said.
In 2015, government also asked residents of Mikala Island and those in five villages in Bukakkata Sub -county in Masaka District to relocate to other areas to pave way for re-establishment of a military training base and an airstrip.