Two rival organisations of people with disabilities are fighting over a piece of land in Kampala. Both groups claim to have the support of President Yoweri Museveni in the transaction.The Kampala Disabled Traders Business Association (KDTBA) maintains that plot 11 at the Old Taxi Park on Luwum Street is theirs, having been offered to them by former Mayor Christopher Iga and confirmed later on by President Museveni.
But KCC, which was instructed by the President to process ownership of the land for this group, has instead given this particular plot to a local investor, Omar Mandela. And instead of allocating another piece of land on Namirembe Road to KDTBA as compensation for plot 11, Luwum Street, KCC gave it to Kampala District People with Disability Union that claims to represent all people with disabilities. This claim is contested by KDTBA.
But KDTBA is not happy with this decision, arguing that the councilors are there to advocate for the needs of people with disabilities, not to own property on their behalf.
Their position is that the disputed land was allocated to them by former Kampala Mayor, Christopher Iga, in 1989. They said that President Museveni has also directed that a land title be given to their group.
Kampala District People with Disability Union was given a 49-year lease and is to hold the land on behalf of various groups of disabled people. City Oils Ltd tycoon, Omar Mandela, has given the Union Shs 50 million to build stalls on the new site.
In a January 5, 2007 letter to the KCC planner, Kampala Town Clerk, Ruth Kijjambu, justified the decision saying the land on Luwum Street was too small for the disabled people to carry out their business. KDTBA however protested the move, saying this plot is rightly owned by them.
Since 2005, Museveni has in a series of correspondence directed KCC and the Minister of Local Government, Kahinda Otafiire, to process a land title for plot 11 on Luwum Street in the names of KDTBA.
“I held a meeting with a group of persons with disabilities, and among the issues they raised was the fact that the above [Plot 11 Luwum Street] initially belonged to the Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) traders in Kampala, but KCC had re-allocated it to some business people,” he said in a letters to the minister, a copy of which The Weekly Observer has seen.
“I therefore direct that you return this plot to PWDs with a land title from KCC because we shouldn’t be seen violating the rights of these minority groups,” Museveni said in a letter dated September 27, 2006.
Having appealed to the highest office in the country to no avail, KDTBA recently vowed to use force to protect their interests.
“The President and the former mayor Iga all confirmed our ownership of this land,” said Nvule Hamuzata, the chairperson.
The KDTBA group recently stormed Central Police Station in Kampala demanding audience with Edward Ochom, the Regional Police Commander, to voice their grievances.
KDTBA Secretary General, John Mushatsi, said they will challenge KCC in court.
He said the work of representatives of people with disabilities in the councils or Parliament is to lobby and advocate for the needs of the people they represent but not “to own property on their behalf.”
Revenge at work?
KDTBA claims that KCC bypassed their group to deal with their representatives as a way of punishing them for refusing to sign a memorandum that sought to relocate them to Namirembe Road. But the Town Clerk claims they signed the memorandum after all.
Under the contested memorandum, KCC was to allocate PWDS land measuring not less than 0.152 Ha under “terms and conditions to be specified by council.”
The new land was also to be jointly owned by Kampala District Union of Persons with Disabilities and KBTDA. But Mushatsi says they opposed dual-ownership.
He alleged that Union members shared the Shs 50 million among themselves, but Afua Nalubega, the chairperson of the Union, said the general assembly was yet to decide how the money should be used.
She dismissed KDTBA as non-reflective of the interests of persons with disabilities, saying it was hurriedly registered so as to acquire the land. “They want to show that we are divided,” she said.
Both groups claim that President Museveni supports their cause. Nalubega says that while meeting PWD leaders on May 15, 2008, Museveni directed the Town Clerk to register the land in the names of the district union.
“He said we give it to elected groups.” But Mushatsi also claims that during the same meeting, Museveni directed KCC to process a land title for their group.
Mushatsi says Museveni supported them after he had been told the district union has only 11 members while KDTBA currently has 267 members and was open to new members.