Kalungu Residents Decry Delays in Accessing Justice and Compensation for their land

Ms Aidah Babirye a 65-year-old widow and a resident of Kapere Village in Lukaya Town Council, Kalungu District narrated how she lost some of her land to the construction of a public road by Kalungu Town Council in 2009.  Like Babirye, many other residents in the same area where the road passes, lost land and crops, but unfortunately have not yet been fully compensated for these losses, and their efforts to seek redress from courts of law have been undermined by delays in court processes.

These were some of the revelations by residents from Kalungu District who turned up for a public dialogue that was organized by Vision Group, at Bulakati play ground in Lukaya town, Kalungu District on Saturday 21st February 2020.  The dialogue was intended to provide a platform for the residents to engage with leaders and judiciary officials on issues of human right abuses and access to justice in this area.

Another resident, Mr Nyanzi Muhammed from Lutengo village in Kalungu district, narrated how he has been entangled in a protracted dispute with leaders of a mosque over a piece of land.  He said that the land which he inherited from his grandfather, accommodates the mosque and his plantation, but the mosque leaders do not allow him to plant any crops near the mosque, yet he believes he has a right to plough on it. He said that his efforts to have the matter settled in courts of law failed, because the mosque leaders refused to heed to the court’s advice to settle the matter amicably, out of court.

In another tale, Mr Kabaale Yiga complained that he has not received any compensation for his business house that developed cracks during the construction of the Masaka-Lukaya road. He said engineers and valuers from Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) that was in charge of this road, assessed the problem and documented findings, but these have since not shown up again.

Other concerns raised by residents included delayed justice on land ownership misunderstandings, intellectual rights matters, late or no compensation for losses made during development of public infrastructure, and ‘unfair’ imprisonment of family members among others. Responding to these concerns, the Masaka Grade 1 Magistrate, Her Worship Jalia Basajabalaba re-assured the residents that she would address their concerns in due time, especially those that she found pending at the time she assumed office.  She, however, advised that people should always try an out-of-court settlement before seeking court interventions. This, she said, is a faster way of attaining justice and it promotes peaceful co-existence.

The Vice Chairperson LCV of Kalungu District, Haji Yusuf Mayanja reiterated the Magistrate’s message of opting for consensus among aggrieved parties before going to the courts. He, however, called on courts to make locus visits before making judgements especially on land-related conflicts.  “… I encourage our judges to go on ground and asses the matter….,” Mr Mayanja said and further proposed that judges who make rulings without making locus visits should be reprimanded by the Judicial Service Commission.

Funded by the DGF, the Vision Media Group organises these platforms to enable engagements between local leaders and citizens on issues of human rights and access to justice as a way of enhancing citizen’s capacity to know, demand and defend their legal and human rights.