By James Bariyo
The Bamugemereire land commission has quizzed former Mayor of Mbarara municipality Mr. Wilson Tumwine for indulging himself in illegal de-gazetting of National Forestry Authority (NFA) land.
The committee was on Friday at Ntare school main hall dealing with land matters in greater Mbarara.
Tumwine who led the municipality for 15 years allegedly used his leadership position to grab the NFA land located in Nyamityobora ward Kakoba at mile 2 on Mbarara-Masaka road.
Through the lead lawyer, Mr. Tumwine was read two cases that included defrauding locals and conniving with Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) officials to be compensated a lot of money for his land alleged to be in the forest reserve on the Mbarara bypass.
Through council, the mayor by then solicited funds totaling Shs240m from 175 people which was paid by cash to process the de-gazetting exercise.
Tumwine also borrowed a loan of Shs150m from the bank to clear NFA on the matter for stakeholders to acquire land for private development.
However, the Ministry Lands and NFA failed the deal and the locals who had procured the money were not paid back in accordance to the committee.
“Mr. Tumwine you took people’s money, promised them land but never gave them land and they have never got back their money,” Bamugemerire said.
Tumwine however said that the people were paid back Shs190.4m out of Shs240m.
Bamugemereire stated that it’s the current municipality leadership which is clearing the former regime’s debts.
Bamugemereire also challenged the mayor for asking for compensation higher than the land value.
However, the former mayor insisted that he received what belonged to him form UNRA.
Justice Bamugemereire asked Tumwine how much he was paid in an acre of land.
Mr. Tumwine purchased land in Kachera block 1 plot 328 where he was compensated Shs683m by UNRA as the Mbarara Bypass crossed the land.
She also stated that the mayor connived with UNRA officials to receive high pay from the little land that was crossed by the Mbarara Bypass.
Bamugemereire said that the land in contention was less than 100metres which was crossed by the Bypass but not the 3.3acres as Tumwine said.
“Do you know 3.3acres; in fact does the road go through your land at all? Do you know you are a liar? How does 100metres become 3.3acres that you were compensated?” she asked.
She therefore stated that the mayor might have connived with the number of people in the municipality to acquire the buildings and other property he owns around town.
“You have been colluding in this municipality, colluded so much property and land,” she said.
However, the mayor denied all the allegations of colluding with people to take forestry land and other properties.
Justice Bamugemereire confirmed that the mayor is one of the forest encroachers and his land in contention is located in the forest reserve according to the map from the ministry of lands but Tumwine denied it.
She also named the former mayor a hypocrite as he earlier wrote to the district land board advising them to stop giving land titles to people occupying forests.
“And can you imagine the hypocrisy of you were telling people don’t title land in the forest; you were the chief encroacher with 23 hectares in the forest,” she said.
The committee ended its visit in Mbarara and warned the former mayor, the area land committee chairperson by then Mr. Yahaya Semugenzi and NFA officials that they will be called in Kampala for further interrogations and investigations in the land matter.
Bamugemereire promised to come back in Mbarara to tackle cases which were not handled.
The committee received a total of 230 complaints which were registered mainly from Mbarara, Isingiro, Kiruhura, Ibanda, Sheema and Bushenyi
44% of the complaints received in Mbarara were about land grabbing and evictions, 20% were corruption and fraudulent practices in land, 14% were land ownership and land use, 30% from females and 45% from males.