During his most recent visit and mobilization tour of Greater Masaka, the residents of Ndolo Parish in Kyotera district’s Kabira Sub County anticipated H.E. the President YK Museveni would physically come to their area and pronounce himself against an elusive land dealer identified as Ignatius T who has been depriving many households of their land while claiming to represent interests of State House.
“We know there is no way President Museveni or any of his close people can stoop so low as to get involved in such petty matters and we looked forward to him coming to Kabira so that we prompt him to pronounce himself on the same but our leaders sabotaged us and his program never expanded up to this end,” one of the area local leaders told journalists during their Friday fact-finding mission.
The background to this entire land saga is as follows as was pieced together by our reporter Yasiin Sserwanja: A community of residents in the southern border district of Kyotera are living a nightmare, having endured months of cascading violent attacks at the hands of a shadowy clique of politically-connected people who seek to evict them from their ancestral land while claiming deep State House connections.
The attackers are led by a one Ignatius T, who claims to be carrying out eviction orders on behalf of powerful people in State House, although he has never shown documentation or any other form of proof backing up his claims.
Ignatius T, who also claims to be related to key leaders in this country, has reportedly unleashed attacks and destruction on people’s homes and farms in Ndolo parish, Kabira Sub County, apparently to arm-twist them into giving up their land, where they and their forefathers have lived as bonafide occupants for the better part of the past century.He is reportedly working with some district leaders who have helped him recruit allies among law enforcement officers, but also with backing from a handful of senior government officials, some in Cabinet.
On Ignatius T’s orders, the locals say, Police (led by a one ACP GM and another JK of even a higher rank than GM’s) have carried out arrests, burnt down houses and destroyed their farms in broad daylight. In a recent complaint filed to the Inspector General of Police in March this year, the residents (including Godfrey Luzibira, Stephen Kasigwa, William Kanini, Hosia Kigambe, Isaac Bigirwa, Grace Kasande and others) accused the two police officers of “descending on our farms and destroying all our food crops and cattle kraals.”
The police officers have also issued several summons and what locals have perceived as illegitimate eviction notices to them, pushing them out of the encumbered Sango Bay Estate land. Police had yet to respond to our queries on whether a probe has been opened into the allegations.However, the locals have in the meantime rushed to Masaka High Court seeking orders against tycoon Ignatius T – who refers to himself as the “Liaison Consultant of Sango Bay land” – and the two implicated police commanders.
The affected residents occupy an expanse of land in Ndolo Parish, measuring about 6 square miles. Here, in the open grasslands they do mostly cattle farming and grow food crops for their homesteads. This land makes up part of what used to be the 250 square miles (65,000 ha) which was leased to the Indian-owned Sango Bay Estates Ltd by the British colonial government back in the 1930s.
Owing to the enormous size of the land, the Indians only used part of it for sugarcane production, sisal and timber processing, while the remainder was taken up by settlers, including the parents and grandparents of the current occupants. The 1972 Indian expulsion by Idi Amin destroyed most of the estate as the factory and other infrastructure was looted. When the owners returned in the early 1990s, their efforts to restore the estate to its former glory were fruitless.
In 2003, Government signed a MoU Bidco Uganda Ltd, promising to allocate 14,500 of the 65,000 hectares of the Sango Bay estate to grow palm oil. As it turned out however, the palm oil project presented a perfect opportunity for land brokers and grabbers who co-opted ravenous local leaders and security, and started processing curious land titles on the remaining land while displacing scores of bonafide occupants.
As the land brokers and grabbers (some of whom occupy top government positions) took up other parts of Sango Bay, Ignatius T set his eyes on the 6 square miles of Ndolo. As he started planting trees in the residents’ crop gardens, tempers started flaring and in 2011, when he sent one of his agents to inspect the trees, the residents organized and went on the offensive, beating him to death.
From then, Ignatius T disappeared until around 2015 when he returned and launched fresh attacks with help from some police leaders in the area. Ndolo parish has seen the most spate of violence and bloodshed, whereas in rest of the other sub counties in the Sango Bay area, land acquisition and development has carried on without a hitch.
Sources told Mulengera News that although Ignatius T claims to be deeply connected to State House, the Office of the President has come out to deny knowledge of him. In the court case filed in Masaka by the locals, lawyers representing Bidco Uganda Ltd said in an affidavit that their company had no interest whatsoever in the Ndolo area as Ignatius T was claiming. The Ministry of Lands too, has denied involvement in the Ndolo area, noting that official demarcation of the land for Bidco’s palm oil production has not even started yet.
In March 2021, shortly after the Uganda Land Commission finally took possession of the Sango Bay land, President Museveni directed the Commission to evenly split the 22,028 hacrares between Bukora Estates Ltd and UPOL Sango Bay Ltd.
The President in the letter, expressly ordered for cancellation of the dubious land titles that have been acquired on the land, writing; “…the practice of encroachers who have been obtaining illegal titles on the land and want to disrupt the development is not acceptable and must stop.” Museveni further directed that all “wanainchi” who are genuine bibanja holders on the land should be verified by the Commission and handled in accordance with the law.
President Museveni just returned last week from greater Masaka, where he spent 4 days touring and assessing the government’s development programs. There had been high anticipation that the President would address the issue of land grabbing and the ongoing displacement of families in Kyotera.
The President, however, made no mention of the issue or even a spot visit to the contested land much, to the chagrin of the residents. Some of the locals believe the President was misadvised by selfish actors not to visit the affected area. Sources have told us that a Minister, who owns hundreds of acres of land in Sango Bay, had days earlier called a meeting of local leaders and asked them to write down their concerns for him to deliver to the President because he wasn’t going to be able to make it to Kyotera.
This website has established that the raids on people’s homes are being carried out by a unit called the “Sango Bay Security Unit” commanded by a senior officer who claims to be from Uganda Police. He was transferred from Kalangala district where he was also cited in mass evictions of people. It is unclear when this Security Unit was formed and whether it’s something the President, Cabinet or even the High Command ever sanctioned.
“The security operatives usually come on two police pickup trucks dressed smartly and they unleash the violence; setting people’s grass thatched homes on fire and cutting down their crops,” a source told our reporter. “They arrest people every other day and release them later on bond. They never charge them. Even if they find you taking pictures in this parish, they will arrest you and confiscate your gadget.”
Police Spokesman Fred Enanga and the Greater Masaka Police spokesman Muhammad Nsubuga were also unreachable for comments. Our efforts to reach the very clandestine Ignatius T were futile as no one knows how to reach him either physically or virtually. (For comments on this story, get back to us on 0705579994 [whatsapp line], 0779411734 & 041 4674611 or email us at email@example.com).