The Land Protection Unit of the Uganda Police Force is facing an uphill task to sensitise the public protect them against rich landlords who are reportedly grabbing their land.
The spokesperson for the Land Protection Unit, Emilian Kayima says police have realized that some landlords fence off Bibanja holders, and when the latter rise up and destroy the fences, they are arrested and charged for causing malicious damage to property, threatening violence or trespass.
Out of frustration, the poor Bibanja holders usually gang up to attack landlords and end up in jail. During the process when they are away the landlords easily take physical possession of the land, according to Kayima.
Kayima says majority of the poor Bibanja holders have taken a laid back position and continue to fall victim of the modern day land grabbers because they feel they are not connected to anybody in government and therefore they know they cannot get help.
Police says they have realized that in other cases, landlords contact lawyers who write to Bibanja holders telling them to vacate. Kayima says this is a trick to coerce Bibanja holders into selling off their land or agree to compensation without regard to the fact that compensation should be on a willing buyer –willing seller basis.
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Kayima adds, however, that some Bibanja holders have also been compensated, but when time comes to leave they seek sympathy from their local politicians.
According to police, there are cases where landlords claim they do not recognize any kibanja holder so they sell land to other people. If Bibanja holders do not have money, then they should surrender part of the kibanja and give you transfer forms for your land.
Kayima says if the kibanja holder does not have money to pay then retain your interests. He observed that most victims of land grabbers do not know how to verify their land.
In other incidences, Kayima says, heirs have been found to transact business without consulting other stake holders. He says heirs are just holding custodial powers on behalf of others and have no right to sell. There are also cases of spouses selling off family property without consent of other spouses and the biggest victims are the women.
Kayima says to address these anomalies the Land Protection Unit has put up a team that listens to all stake holders and are moving down to the community to create awareness.
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Kayima notes that police is also trying to get all policemen to understand the challenges that Bibanja holders are facing at the hands of powerful Landlords.
The unit is also trying to get leaders especially politicians to help mobilise people so that the unit can sensitise them based on the law.