The National Housing and Construction Company Limited (NHCCL) has vowed to develop the controversial Kasokoso land, despite last week’s violent protests by current residents.
The residents were upset at police plans to evict them from Kasokoso, land they claim belongs to them.
But according to the NHCCL Chief Commercial Officer, Caleb Kakuyo, the company is looking into alternative plans to ensure an amicable relocation of these ‘squatters’.
Under the Kireka-Banda slum redevelopment project, NHCCL wants to develop apartments for low, medium, and high-income earners.
“There is no planned forceful eviction of any resident. Instead, residents will be given the first opportunity to be part of the project. Only those who choose not to be part of the project will be compensated and allowed to leave peacefully,” the company said, in a statement, last week.
NHCCL says the area will be developed in phases, the first one having low-cost houses on about 20 acres. These will be occupied temporarily by those who opt to join the project. The company will then develop the rest of the tract of land under phase II.
“Once their new houses [in phase I] are complete, [the residents] will move in and occupy them and in that way, create room for residents in phase II [whose houses will be under construction],” the statement says.
Residents will have to pay for these houses. But NHCCL says it will value the structures of those whose houses will be demolished, and discount that on the value of their new houses.
Kasokoso is located in the Banda and Kireka areas, sitting on a hill off Kampala-Jinja highway, five kilometres away from Kampala. It also borders Bweyogerere, Nakawa, Mutungo and Kirinya.
It borders Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi’s palace. It is home to low-income earners, soldiers, policemen, students, casual labourers and refugees who ran away from northern Uganda and settled in Acholi quarters.
But while the plans look good on paper, the situation on the ground is quite tense, with many of the slum dwellers opposed to NHCCL taking over the land. Consequently the slum dwellers are in a fight that has pitted them against NHCCL, Kireka Estates Uganda Limited (KEUT) and the ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development (MLHUD).
The residents claim they are bona fide owners of the land in Kawanga, Kireka D, Kiganda, Banda B1, Acholi B1 and Kasokoso. David Mugalya, the LCI chairman of Kireka D village, claims there are some 150,000 people on this land.
A copy of land titles The Observer has seen, shows that NHCCL is the title holder of the sprawling slum, spanning some 292.6 acres. But William Kibira says he also owns his plots in Kawanga, having lived here all his life.
“My father was a kibanja owner here and we had not developed it because of the instability,” he says. “I started developing the land in 2000. I have built four houses on my small pieces of land.”
Kibira claims that his family thought this was Kabaka’s land and was settled on the fact that he could not acquire land titles for his tract of land.
“[It is only recently that we learnt that the land does not belong to Kabaka or Buganda Land Board. We started searching for the owner of the land and discovered it belongs to Kireka Estate,” Kibira says.
The Buganda Land Board had denied ownership of the land on Kyadondo FRV 31 Folio 8 and FRV 31 Folio 10, in a May 24, 2010 letter to NHCCL.
“Please be advised that the land in question neither belongs to Buganda Land Board nor to the Kabaka of Buganda either in official capacity or otherwise,” wrote BLB Executive Secretary David Kyewalabye Male.
“While there may be no Kabakaship land there, it is of utmost importance that the land nearest to the palace be given utmost attention for security purposes, as it has become a big security threat as it is prone to encroachment. We pledge our full cooperation and support in this matter,” Male wrote.
Lauben Byabagambi does “not remember” when he acquired land in Kiganda, nor does he know its size. Instead, he says he bought his land from some old people and built three houses on it.
“It is my right to get a title of my land or I live as a kibanja owner. If I’m living comfortably, why do I have to get a title?” he asks.
The land in question was granted by the British Government to Kireka Estates Uganda Limited (KEUL) on July 3, 1930, as a crown grant measuring about 425 acres in Kyadondo.
NHCCL’s documents and land titles show that between 1966 and 1968, KEUL leased 292 acres to NHCCL for 99 years. In 2012, NHCCL acquired revisionary interest, making it a freehold owner. NHCCL has since paid Shs 13bn to KEUL for the land.
Sources in NHCCL say the land was mostly left idle due to political instability. But between 1989 and 1991, people occupied the idle land and opened up small. On December 14, 2005, Ali Mwandha, the LCI chairman of Kasokoso, wrote to the general manager of NHCCL informing them of encroachers and land grabbers.
“A group of people from Acholi quarters and others from Mutungo came and started demarcating, sharing plots on your land claiming that they had been given the land by the Kabaka,” Mwanda wrote. “Another group came and sold plots to some people at Shs 300,000, the situation is getting worse each day.”
Indeed, many of the residents set up temporary mud-and-wattle houses on the land, claiming that the Kabaka had allocated them land and consequently they would not be chased away. They later built permanent tenements while others built big houses.
NHCCL Chief Commercial Officer Caleb Kakuyo wrote back and sent Mwanda two security guards to guard the land, and later asked that the squatters be evicted. A year later, Mwandha wrote to NHCCL, on June 5, 2006, requesting for some time before the [squatters] could vacate what he called ‘Kireka National Housing land’ as instructed by the construction company.
He said a meeting was held between local leaders and 396 bricklayers, peasant farmers and stone miners in which they agreed to vacate the land but begged for more time.
“Peasant farmers have just planted their crops, bricklayers have just mixed their soil, some students [get] their school fees from here and most of these people borrowed money from microfinance to invest, so they had used these activities as collateral security and not the land. They beg for a period of six months till the end of 2006,” Mwandha wrote.
But the bricklayers, peasants, farmers and students never left. Instead, more of them arrived and occupied plots of land on which they were working. Some started selling the land to willing buyers at giveaway price. The number multiplied from 396 to thousands and turned the hill into a huge slum.
People, who were evicted from Nsambya, Kibuli, Naguru and Nakawa also took refuge in Kasokoso.
“When land is idle and you are an absentee landlord, people will occupy it and if they have occupied it for 12 years, they become bona fide occupants. These people sold off the land with the witness of the LCs,” says Richard Kiyengo, a councillor at Kira town council.
“With the Kampala population explosion, the place turned into a slum. Because land was not titled, it was cheap. I don’t know why [NHCCL] ignored this property for so many years and watched people occupy it without any claim. ... It will be very hard to evict these people.”
David Mugalya, the current chairman, says over 95 per cent of the occupants are on land that does not belong to them. Only five per cent have titles.
“They have become so aggressive that they are now using police to terrorise us. In the most recent incident, 200 armed policemen came here. This is a very dangerous precedent,” says Mugalya.
He adds that local leaders have been approached by people who want to own the land instead of moving away to make way for development. Last week, area MP Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda reportedly told the residents to resist any pressure to move away, something Mugalya agrees with.
“Our position has been that the government should give us [land] titles instead of chasing us. This is not a political game, these are people’s lives. They have been saying we do not own the land just because we do not have titles,” Mugalya told The Observer.
Observers say the NHCCL faces an uphill task in redeveloping this land, due to resistance from residents. Last week police engaged in running battles with residents to save Kira Town Council Mayor Mamerito Mugerwa, as an irate mob threatened to lynch him.
Mugerwa insists the land belongs to NHCCL and the residents should make way for a development. Mugalya claims some 20 people were injured in the scuffle and there will be more fighting.
“They have become so aggressive that they are now using police to terrorise us. For us we are ready to attack them,” he said.
Mugerwa is reported to have acquired land in 2007 and built a market in Kasokoso, which he later sold and moved on, arguing that it was not making profits. Mugerwa declined to respond to this accusation, insisting instead that he was standing by NHCCL.
A NHCCL official, who declined to be named, argues that the residents have no legal cover to protect them against eviction.
“The Land Act does not cover the residents of the contested land because they are neither bona fide nor lawful occupants,” he says.
“For them to qualify under the two categories, they should have occupied this land 12 years before the coming into force of the 1995 Constitution. Their occupation of the land must not have been contested for at least 12 years. So, they are now trespassers.”
Aware of this, the NHCCL has repeatedly promised they will not forcefully evict residents.
“This being a redevelopment project, the houses which will be built will be affordable to all classes of people and everyone will choose a house they can afford,” the company says, in its statement.
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