The senior Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries minister and one of his deputy have hit a deadlock in implementing a presidential directive to lease out land at some of the government ranches.
Senior minister Vincent Ssempijja and junior minister for Animal Industry Joy Kabatsi are said to have developed misunderstandings over the giveaway of land in government ranches of Aswa, Nshaara and Ruhengyere.
Mr Ssempijja and Ms Kabatsi have since issued different instructions to Lands minister Betty Amongi who has failed to take action because of inconsistencies in the acreages of land to be leased out.
With investors and individual farmers already lined up to take over 19 pieces of land in at least seven ranches that include Maruzi, Lusenke, Naro-Nakyesesa, and Njeru farm, the two ministers are clashing over how much land should be allocated in Aswa, Nshaara and Ruhengyere ranches.
On May 24, Ms Kabatsi wrote to Ms Amongi asking her to lease the land to the listed farmers and investors.
She instructed Ms Amongi to lease out five square miles of Nshaara ranch in Mbarara District to Mr Banarbas Tikamanyire Nuwamanya, but this directive was later overruled by Mr Ssempijja.
Ms Amongi said Mr Ssempijja in a June 11 letter, insisted that Mr Tikamanyire be given 10 square miles in Aswa ranch in Pader District, hence quashing the five Ms Kabatsi had allocated in Nshaara ranch.
This disagreement has now left Ms Amongi with no choice but to halt the process of leasing out the land with Uganda Land Commission until the two ministers agree on how much land should be given to Mr Tikamanyire and in which of the three ranches.
Ms Amongi told Sunday Monitor that together with the Uganda Land Commission, they have proceeded to give a five-year lease on Maruzi Ranch in in Apac District to investors and private farmers as directed by the President because there was no contestation by the two ministers.
“I told them; first sort your issues and then come back. Now we are proceeding with Maruzi because it has no contestation. So when they finish their quarrel and other things, then they will come back and we work on other remaining ranches,” Ms Amongi said on Friday.
She said Mr Ssempijja does not want the Lands ministry to act on Ms Kabatsi’s directives because all the letters from President Museveni in that regard are addressed to him and he should be the one to take action.
When contacted, Ms Kabatsi said she does not intent to assume the powers of her senior minister but only took over the matter because Mr Ssempijja was out of the country.
She also said she allocated Mr Tikamanyire five square miles because there is not enough land as Nshaara is being reserved for breeding purposes for the Ankole long-horned cattle.
She also said government wants Aswa ranch used for breeding to restock in northern Uganda, adding that cattle cannot be moved from western Uganda to the north.
Asked why the disagreement between her and Mr Ssempijja is leading to delay in effecting a presidential directive, Ms Kabatsi said the Lands ministry should act on her senior’s wish as long as it complies with the Presidential directive.
“Well, if that is the case, I give in because I am junior. Let him give the square miles as long as it is within the directive of the President. We should not be stuck because two ministers are fighting. Who am I to fight, he is my senior,” Ms Kabatsi said.
Ms Kabatsi also said she and Mr Ssempijja are ready to sort out their issues because President Museveni is not happy with the delays.
She said they have agreed to always share information before each writes any letter to avoid any misunderstanding.
We could not get a comment from Mr Ssempijja as our several calls to his known phone contacts went unanswered and he did not respond to our text messages.