Uganda: Squeeze On MP Over Land

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[Africa: Land Dispute]

Barely a month after hosting the Commonwealth heads of states meetings, Uganda’s explosive land issue is pushing the country towards confrontation between legislators and President Yoweri K. Museveni, who has been in power for nearly 22 years.

Critics say the President wants to grant private land to his cronies who are investors and powerful generals. The president last week held a meeting in an army barracks in Acholi region with community leaders and politicians there. Later, his press aide announced through the government mouthpiece, The New Vision that the community leaders had agreed to grant land to the Ugandan Asian family, the Madhvanis, who want land for a sugar plantation.

The Acholi leaders promptly repudiated the New Vision article and said land can’t be granted until all owners can make a decision. More than one million Ugandans remain confined in concentration camps in the north. The Acholi leaders, including members of parliament, want all to be released and resettled on their lands.

There have been widespread accusations of a land-grab campaign in Uganda. Just today, an opposition member of parliament, Hussein Kyanjo, who represents Makindye West, told The Black Star News, that he’s been summoned tomorrow to the Police Department’s Criminal Investigations Department (CID) at 9:00 AM local time, after he raised questions about land in Buganda region, during a radio interview.

Kabaka Ronald Mutebi, the traditional Buganda monarch last week urged the Museveni regime not to push through an amendment to the land laws he believes will infringe on landlord’s rights in Buganda; Buganda is a traditional Kingdom within Uganda.

In addition to serving in parliament, MP Kyanjo was recently appointed by Kabaka Mutebi as the point man to represent Buganda’s interests in the land dispute with Museveni’s regime.

The Kabaka insists existing law can resolve disputes between landlords and tenants, including squatters.

Ironically, issues of land and the powers of the Kabaka relative to the Central government’s led to a falling out during the 1960s between Mutebi’s father, the late Kabaka Sir Edward Mutesa II and the late Milton Apollo Obote, who was then prime minister.

It led to the violent ouster of Mutesa and his exile; the Baganda never forgave Obote. Clouds again are gathering over the horizon.

“Yes, I have been served with summons to appear at the CID, but the reasons are vague,” Kyanjo, who had appeared on Uganda’s Central Broadcasting Service (CBS) FM station said. “Since Parliament has been on holiday, the summons have been delivered at my home at about 4pm, and my 16 years daughter received.”

He said the President had called a press conference at State House to “tell people that we were liars..” Asked what triggered the dispute, Kyanjo said, “I appeared at CBS program and I cited some example where his veterans have evicted the tenants. Then I questioned who the people the president wants to protect are?”

“The veterans,” Kyanjo said, referring to former fighters, “grabbed land at Kawanda just opposite the research station. They grabbed another at Mulago while the others at Makerere University and then Wakaliga. Were the landlords grabbing land?”

“If I’m persecuted for executing the duties of serving my Kingdom, its absurd” Kyanjo added, referring to his work as the Kabaka’s point man.

He continued, “Possibly another reason why I might have been summoned is to inform the Presidential Advisors to advise him not to use abusive language that insults our King. I told the advisors to tell him that it’s against our culture to insult our King.”

Kyanjo, a maverick and vocal politician remains unbowed even after repeated incarceration by the regime.

Earlier this year he was arrested together with another Ugandan opposition member of parliament, Beatrice Atim Anywar, who is the women’s MP for Kitgum district and charged with staging demonstrations against Museveni’s plan to award huge chunks of the country’s Mabira Forest reserves in a sweet heart deal to another group of Ugandan Asian investors.

The giveaways were shelved after protests –that resulted three deaths—by environmentalists through the Mabira Crusade.

While he was detained for the Mabira protest, Kyanjo found himself sharing a jail cell with civilians, some of whom had been detained for several months without charges or trial.

One detainee, was a Rwandese national, Acleo Kalinga, whose celebrated case exposed widespread abuses that exist within the prison system, including allegations of diabolical tortures.

Kalinga had endured torture for more than a year—in one instance, Kalinga later alleged, a thick layer of cooking lard was rubbed on his back over which a hot iron was run over. On another occasion, he said, a thin rope was tied to his testicles and atached to a vehicle, which he was forced to drag. Kalinga is now mentally traumatized, semi-paralyzed and suffers regular rectal bleeding, doctors who examined him say.

Upon his own release, Kyanjo’s intervention led to Kalinga’s freedom and return to Rwanda where he is now preparing a law suit against the Ugandan government.

Black Star News Update: December 27, 2007:

MP Kyanjo after recording a statement with Uganda police today revealed that the police brought no charges against him and he walked out a free man. “It’s a shame that our police force is being used to intimidate the very people they are meant to protect,” Kyanjo told The Black Star, in a phone interview from Kampala.

“I have told them to convey my message to Mr. Museveni to stop intimidating the Kabaka of Buganda Ronald Muwenda Mutebi,” he added.

Investigative reporter Miwambo writes for The Black Star News from Europe. He can be reached at

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