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August 26, 2011

Disputed land ownership stalls proposed Uganda tea plant

by B. Okethwengu

Eight clans claiming ownership of a piece of land in Uganda have vowed not to allow the Mukwano Group of Companies take over the land. They accused Mukwano of using the government and some greedy locals to grab their land.

Kasimuru Ogentho, one of the complainants, said Mukwano should claim ownership of only 500 hectares of land which belonged to the government.

“Anything beyond 500 hectares is a clear attempt by Mukwano to grab our land, which we shall not accept,” Ogentho said.

The 1,285 hectare land at Abanga has been at the centre of contention between Mukwano and Zeu residents since 2008. Mukwano had earmarked the land for a tea plant. Many local attempts to solve the dispute have not yielded any fruit.

The Refugee Law Project under the Makerere University Faculty of Law recentlylast week organised a dialogue in an attempt to resolve the conflict in vain. Rasul Aluma, the Zombo RDC, accused district politicians of being behind the conflict.

“How will you develop when you do not want to partner like Mukwano?” Aluma asked.

Aluma had organised a meeting with Zeu locals and Mukwano, where the locals welcomed the tea project. However, eight clans which shared the land disputed the outcome of the meeting. They argued that the people who attended the meeting were not the owners of the land.

Emmy Kakura, the Zombo district chief, said he was not opposed to investors. He accused the RDC of not following the protocol.

However, the loose minutes of a meeting between the Mukwano management, Alur Kingdom and the Zombo districts officials at Hotel Africana in Kampala on July 15, indicate that Mukwano has the title for the land.

Alykhan Karmali, the Mukwano managing director, said in the meeting that the title for 1,285 hectares of land was in 1969 granted to Agricultural Enterprise Ltd, which then sold to James Finlays Company. Karmali explained that Finlays failed to develop the land, which was later sold to the Mukwano Group of Companies.

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