July 15, 2013

Masaka Residents Protest Establishment of UPDF Air Base

350 residents of Ssunga Village in Bukakata Sub County in Masaka district have petitioned the Defense ministry rejecting the proposed establishment of a UPDF air base in their area.

Defense Minister Crispus Kiyonga
Defense Minister Crispus Kiyonga

Last month, during a tour in Suunga village in Bukakata sub county President Yoweri Museveni recommended the establishment of the air force base. The proposed site of the air force base is 30km East of Masaka Town. However, it is occupied by dozens of families. Last week, government sent a team of surveyors to demarcate the boundaries for the air force base drawing angry reactions from the occupants.

They threatened to lynch the surveyors for trespassing on their land without consulting them. Now, the affected residents have petitioned Dr Crispus Kiyonga, the Defense Minister protesting the decision to take over their land for the establishment of the air force base.

Led by Florence Namayanja, the Bukoto East Member of Parliament, residents say they are not ready to give up their land because it is their sources of livelihood. Katuga Musota, one of the residents says that they were surprised to see surveyors trespassing on their land without seeking their permission.

He says they are not ready to surrender their land for the establishment of an air force base because it exposes them to insecurity in times of war. Musota says they own titles of their land, which is their only means of survival because they use it for agricultural purposes. Phillip Mukasa, another resident of Ssuunga says the decision by government to demarcate his land without his consent amounts to land grabbing.

Florence Namayanja, the area MP says that she has already presented the residents’ fully signed petition to Dr Crispus Kiyonga, the Defense minister.

She faults government for surveying the residents’ land without consulting them. Namayanja says despite the fact that residents have expressed objection to the establishment of the air force base on their land, they can change their position if government consults them instead of grabbing their land. She says Kiyonga has indicated plans to travel to Ssunga to address the affected residents to avoid blood shade. Chrissy Odoi Owor, the Masaka Resident District Commissioner has confirmed plans by government to take over the disputed land.

He however, says government has suspended the land survey until defense ministry officials meet the affected residents. Owor says government has plans to compensate all the affected residents.

Joseph Kalungi, the Masaka District LC5 Chairman says he has already started sensitizing residents on the need to give government this land. He however, accuses some politicians of politicizing the proposed construction of the air force base. Part of the land belongs to Buganda kingdom.

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