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NEW POISON SCARE LOCKS GOV’T AS KEY LANDS MINISTRY OFFICIAL DIES BEFORE EASTER DINNER

By Mulengera Reporters 

He was to have Easter with members of his extended family in Fort Portal but that never happened because he insisted on completing some pending tasks at the Lands Ministry offices in Kampala. We are talking about Land Information Systems (LIS) Commissioner Grace Kagoro who had served as a key member of top management and land computerization consultant for the GoU and World Bank for the last more than 25 years. He became Commissioner in charge of computerization of land management/Land Information Systems (LIS) a few years ago after the sudden early retirement by Commissioner Oput who he used to deputize.

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Renowned for hard work, incorruptibility and spontaneous humility, Kagoro was the man heading a department that had the largest amount of donor money at the Lands Ministry. Prograpms like CEDEP, into which the World Bank sunk close to Shs1trn to facilitate the establishment of 21 Lands Ministry Zonal Offices/branches, were all under him as Commissioner Land Information Systems. Kagoro, who has closely been working with new State Minister for Lands Dr. Sam Mayanja, has been the President’s key man on most of the reforms into the land management that the NRM government continues to undertake.

The 21 Ministry Zonal Offices/branches, meant to decentralize land registration and management services, were all constructed under his supervision as the LIS Commissioner and the resultant efficiency and service delivery improvements enabled the GoU repay the WB loan for CEDEP I (close to Shs1trn) ahead of the scheduled time. The impressed World Bank bosses offered to give another Shs345bn for phase II in order to accelerate the operationalization of the newly established 21 Lands Ministry Zonal Offices or branches across the country. The newly established MZOs were to get adequate staff recruited etc using the project’s 2nd phase for which Kagoro has been Coordinator.

Grace Kagoro always moved with State Minister Sam Mayanja.

His work ethic and incorruptibility had won kudos for Kagoro among the WB officials in Kampala and at the same time enemies among some GoU officials who failed to eat some of the money because of Kagoro‘s ability to frequently access the President and raise the red flag regarding those trying to corrupt him. For instance, on realizing, Kagoro as Coordinator was determined to loyally work for the people of Uganda as opposed to conniving with them to rip off the country, some of the influential GoU officials decampaigned the idea of taking the Shs346bn for 2nd phase and initially got Gen Museveni to buy into their view.

When the veteran leader from Rwakitura objected, basing on misinformation self-seekers had fed him with, the World Bank officials sneaked Grace Kagoro into State House where he gave the more accurate version unmasking many of the falsehoods the President had been told. A newly converted Gen Museveni rang then PSST Keith Muhakanizi demanding that Uganda immediately takes up the Shs345bn for the project’s 2nd phase especially that the Kangaroo-spearheaded reforms had resulted into the Lands Ministry promptly repaying the loan through improved service delivery efficiency and statutory fees collections.

This angered many powerful people in government who resented Kagoro largely because of his incorruptibility. They tried to bad mouth him before the President but the man from Rwakitura remained adamant asserting that he knew the seasoned and humble technocrat from Fort Portal better than those who were trying to demonize and antagonize him with State House.

Besides staffing the MZOs, phase II (which was already ongoing) was also about accelerating documentation and titling of the land that the GoU continues to acquire for its landless citizens using the Land Fund. It’s also about issuing certificates of occupancy for Bibanja holders and regularizing those occupying former public land under customary arrangements.

It was Kagoro who convinced Gen Museveni that there was no way land management would be streamlined without cleaning up land registration processes and digitizing them. It’s because of his efforts that it these days takes fewer days to do title search or get one’s transaction or even mortgage registered and authenticated at any of the land offices. He had convinced the President this is the only way government’s economic transformation programs (as articulated under PDM, the NDP III or even the NRM Manifesto) would be successfully achieved.

To Gen Museveni, Kagoro was the man who knew much about the journey to transform land registration and management in this country. Each time he met the WB and other funding institutions to discuss matters relating to land, Kagoro always had to be there to give the technical guidance.

Kagoro had previously complained to some of his political leaders at the Lands Ministry about some people wanting to bump him off because he had resisted efforts to be recruited in mafia schemes to rip off the taxpayer as the Shs345bn CEDEP II gets rolled out. The mafia actors always wanted to eat off some of the money and yet this would only be possible if Kagoro, as project Coordinator and line Commissioner, played ball. Yet the man from Fort Portal could never do that because he always said he resented disappointing the President and his ultimate bosses, the people of Uganda.

DYING ON EASTER SUNDAY:

Having worked and left his Wandegeya LIS offices late on Saturday, Kagoro (in his early 50s) stayed home and rested on Sunday as he prepared his wife and children to travel to Fort Portal that very day late evening. And indeed, that’s what happened. But on Friday he had suffered sudden stomach upsets as his abdomen area became frighteningly swollen amidst a lot of pain. He was rushed to the hospital where he was diagnosed with mild indigestion complications which medics assured him was not life-threatening and it indeed cleared upon basic medication. He got well and even worked on Saturday.

On Easter Sunday in the evening, Kagoro drove his wife and children to Fort Portal where he planned to enjoy Easter Monday with extended family members and travel back to Kampala on Tuesday morning for work. On arrival in Fort Portal, Kagoro, having driven all the way from Kampala, rested as his wife went to the kitchen to prepare dinner. On completing dinner preparations, the wife came to woke him up but he wasn’t responding. She tried waking him up only to realize he was lifeless. She made an alarm which attracted neighbors who helped her confirm he was gone.

On getting the information of his death in Kampala, the Lands Minister Judith Nabakooba became very frightened as she informed fellow members of top management none of whom could believe Grace Kagoro was gone. Suspecting foul play, the wife and other family members have insisted on postmortem involving teams from Kampala and others at Fort Portal Regional Referral Hospital.

They want the actual cause of death scientifically investigated, established and communicated to everybody concerned because Grace Kagoro was always healthy and had no history of ill health. As all this is being done, many colleagues working at the same Lands Ministry remain devastated while confirming that no one is safe anymore. Kagoro was always a peaceful man who never quarreled with anyone and many are wondering why anyone would target him. He would be in office at 7am and was always the last one to leave. He resided in Kawanda and always despised opulenct lifestyle.

The World Bank greatly valued him and there are fears his death or absence might, in some way, complicate the relationship between the Lands Ministry and the World Bank which often used him to popularize and introduce similar land reforms (computerization etc) in countries like Tanzania and Rwanda whose land management officials were always frequenting Uganda to benefit from Grace Kagoro-enabled benchmarking engagements. Grace Kagoro has also been at the frontline in implementing the Gen Museveni-instigated land redistribution reforms in Minister Peace Mutuuzo’s Bunyangabu district where GoU bought/acquired huge chunks of land and redistributed it to the hundreds of landless households. (For comments on this story, call, text or whatsapp us on 0705579994 [whatsapp line], 0779411734, 0200900416 or email us atmulengera2040@gmail.com).

 

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