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Govt to probe fraudulent land dealings in Agago district

KAMPALA, April 3, 2024 – The Deputy Speaker, Thomas Tayebwa, has asked the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development and the Attorney General to investigate claims of land grabbing and fraudulent issuance of land titles in Agago district.

Tayebwa gave the directive during following a petition by aggrieved community members of Lapono Sub-county, presented by John Amos Okot, the Agago North County legislator,  during the plenary sitting on Tuesday.

The petitioners faulted the Ministry of Lands for issuing title certificates without involving the community in the surveying process, adding that the Resident District Commissioner alleged in a 17 October 2023 meeting, that the community had willfully given their land to investors.

“The RDC is now using police and the National Forestry Authority [NFA] officials to intimidate some leaders who have been standing with the community to protect their right to this customary land,” said Okot.

He noted that NFA officials and some game rangers under UWA have menaced the community, citing the destruction of over 10,000 acres of crops by animals.

He added that the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development recently discovered mineral presence on the said land, and has since deployed soldiers who continue to intimidate the community.

“The prayer of these people is that this House should investigate the fraudulent issuance of land titles on this land and also investigate the actions of the RDC [James Nabinson Kidega] and other persons mentioned,” Okot added.

The Attorney General observed that all land owned by NFA and UWA is by gazette and all customary ownership of land can be determined by records under the Ministry of Lands.

“If titles have been issued, they should explain how they were given out. Ministry of Lands is within its right to cancel wrongly issued titles. I will work with the Ministry to get to the bottom of this within the 30 days,” Kiryowa Kiwanuka said.

More details

In January 2024, the Chief Justice of Uganda, Alphonse Owinyi Dollo, advised government to consider engaging all parties in the contested land in Agago district, rather than selectively engaging a few as this will not offer a lasting solution to the conflict. Dollo was speaking at a ceremony where the Minister for Lands, Judith Nabakooba handed over free certificates of customary ownership to the communities of Agago district.

Leaders in Agago district are not happy with the Ministry of Energy and National Forest Authority over planned mineral exploration activities in Lapono hills. On November 11, 2023, there was tension as a team from NFA, delivered mark stones to Lira Kato Sub-county headquarters in preparation for a planned demarcation  of Napono Central Forest Reserve, which NFA says was gazetted in 1948.

The area of contention is said to measure 3,727 hectares [9,209 acres], the same area where the alleged illegal mineral exploration is taking place. Speculation is rife that the area has minerals such as mercury, lime, and mica.

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