Several businessmen in Mbale town are at the verge of losing property worth billions for allegedly encroaching on public land. Fred Enanga, the commandant of the Land Protection Unit has directed the Elgon Regional Police commander to halt any further development of the contest land. The land protection unit accuses the developers of encroaching on public land, which was gazetted for green spaces, cemeteries and children’s park amongst others.
The areas in question are found on Busoga Lane, Nkambo lane, Butaleja lane, Lorry Park, Nabuyonga cemetery, Mbale green space in senior quarters, service land on Kumi road, Bishop Wasikye and Gidima road, compost site along pallisa road; Uhuru Park Children play ground and Nkoma stage Buffer area on Kumi road among others. The land in question belongs to Mbale Municipal council but police claims it was illegally sold off to private developers.
Enanga reveals that preliminary police investigations show that the developers fraudulently acquired the public land and obtained title deeds through false pretence. He has accordingly directed police in Mbale to liase with the municipal council law enforcement team to deploy at all these sites and block any more development as investigation are ongoing. Police identifies some of the illegal developers as Woniala Abedi, Haji Ali Buto Namugali, John Wamanga, an official from Ministry of lands, Isingilo, the proprietor of Nkokonjeru primary school, Nabayo Pilato, Judith Nadunga and Latifu Mafuko.
Diana Nandawula, the Elgon Regional Police spokesperson says they have stopped any further development on these lands and that plans were underway to deploy police officers to guard these sites. Residents neighboring these lands especially the green spaces have commended the police for the move arguing they fought in vain to regain the public land. Paul Mudebo, a resident of Malaba Cell in Nkambo lane accuses some local politicians of masterminding the illegal sale of the green spaces.
Richard Miya, a resident of Nkoma Lane also blames the land grabbing on local leaders in Mbale, who watched in silence as the public land was illegally being sold off.
However, of the developers insists they legally acquired the public land. Haji Ali Buto Namugali, who is accused of acquiring more than 10 plots, claims that he has all the documents to prove the legality of his land transactions. In 2007, a Commission of Inquiry was instituted by the then Minister of Local Government on the illegal sale of open spaces in Mbale and a comprehensive report issued, which recommended that Uganda Land Commission to stop further allocation of land under the jurisdiction Mbale district land board.
However, according to police the recommendation was never implemented as Uganda Land Commission went ahead to issue more leases to developers.