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Minister Atwooki named in Kibaale land grabbing saga

Kampala.A Cabinet minister and other senior Kibaale District officials have been named before the Commission of Inquiry into land matters in the alleged fraudulent acquisition of ownership of large tracts of land with the aim of benefiting from Land Fund.

The minister and other government officials have been accused of fraudulently procuring land titles for unserveyed chunk of land belonging to the Kibaale District Land Board.

The Land Fund is a multipurpose resource envelop with diverse targeted beneficiaries, including tenants seeking to buy or own land, government seeking to buy land for redistribution to bonafide occupants or resettlement of the landless, loans to persons wanting to acquire titles or even survey their land.

It is alleged that Dr Kasirivu Atwooki, the State minister in-charge of Economic Monitoring in the Office of the President, and other district officials paid nominal fees of Shs70,000 to acquire certificates of titles for thousands of acres of land in various parts of the district so as to enrich themselves.

Justice Catherine Bamugemereire commission of inquiry into land matters has accused the minister and other government officials of “conflict of interest and abuse of office”.

The former Kibaale District staff surveyor, Mr Dennis Musinguzi, who also acquired more than 1,000 acres and sold to Uganda Land Commission at more than Shs1 billion, admitted that all the files passed through his office when the named officers and business persons applied for the substantial pieces of land.

He denied that he procured proprietorship of land occupied by other people to dupe government and acquire payment of Shs1 billion but admitted receiving the money and sharing with other people whom he preferred revealing to the commission in a closed door session.

Mr Musinguzi said he sold the 1,000 acres to Uganda Land Commission at more than Shs1 billion and it was paid to him in 2014 and that he sold another portion of land to Hoima Sugar Limited at Shs390 million.

On personal acquisition, Mr Musinguzi said the due process of the title acquisition was followed and in accordance with the customs of Bunyoro Kingdom.

“I personally applied for land at Mpeefu while working as private surveyor through the district land board. It was about 430 hectares (more than 1,000 acres). As an ambitious man, it was free land and I wanted to plant trees in 2007,” Mr Musinguzi testified.

The senior officials acquired land titles from the villages of Kasoga- Mabaale, Mpeefu, Ndaiga, Kyeterekera, Nalweyo, Kasenyi, Kamusenene, Ndama and Kihinduki all in Kibaale District. Mr Musinguzi, who is currently the senior land management officer for Hoima District, admitted that his role in the scam was to check the accuracy of the survey files and also ensure that the title was followed.

The Commission also quizzed the Principal Human resource officer of Kibaale, Mr Rogers Kweezi, in regard to acquisition of various plots of land he acquired and sold to ULC at Shs3.7 billion upon investing Shs210,000.

Mr Kweezi disputed valuation reports but admitted receiving more than 50 per cent of the total sale price and that part of the money was paid to his wife Carolyn Kisembo, who applied for one of the portions of land.

Mr Musinguzi and Mr Kweezi were separately quizzed over corruption, connivance, conflict of interest and abuse of office in regard to acquisition of the land.

Both were arrested and subjected to further investigations by way of recording additional statements in regard to acquisition of the disputed land, how much they acquired and how they spent it and any possible persons with whom they shared the proceeds.

Justice Bamugemereire, who chairs the seven member panel, said the commission will continue investigating the matter to get more evidence in regard to operations of the land fund and land acquisitions in Kibaale District.

The minister is expected to appear before the probe at an appropriate time to defend himself.

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