The Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) will be conducting a new assessment of a piece of land containing a military training base and an airfield located in Bukakkata Sub-county, Masaka District. This land, spanning 12 square miles and encompassing Mikala Island and four villages (Kisasa, Kiggo, Bbaale, and Bukaayi), is currently inhabited by over 380 squatters.
According to Mr. Ibrahim Ssekitto, the spokesperson for Masaka-based Armoured Brigade Barracks – Kasijjagirwa, all squatters currently residing on the army-owned land will be provided compensation to facilitate their resettlement elsewhere. This compensation process follows a previous land valuation exercise conducted by the government in 2015 when the army initially announced its intention to reclaim the land.
However, Mr. Ssekitto emphasized that the old valuation rates would not be utilized due to the changing market value of the land. In 2015, the government had planned to offer Shs5 million per acre of land as compensation. Mr. Ssekitto explained, “We are going to conduct a new land survey before proceeding with the valuation process. After these assessments, the government will then consider compensating people based on the current market price of the land they occupy.”
This development addresses the concerns of squatters who had feared eviction without receiving fair compensation. During a meeting with affected residents and local leaders in the previous month, residents expressed their anxieties, noting that many of them had resided on this land for over 30 years. Mr. John Mubiru, an affected resident from Kiggo Village, shared his sentiment during a community meeting, saying, “My grandfathers are buried on this land, and if I am to leave, I have to be given fair compensation to relocate their remains and my family to a new place.”
Mr. Peter Ssenkungu, the National Resistance Movement (NRM) chairperson for Masaka District, urged the army to educate residents on the benefits of the project before implementing any eviction measures. He stated, “There is a need for the Uganda Land Commission to engage with the affected communities and explain why the land is required before taking over.”
Bukoto East Member of Parliament Evan Kanyike affirmed that as leaders, they would strive to ensure that affected residents receive equitable compensation packages.
This marks the second attempt by the army to reclaim this land, with the first occurring in 2015. At that time, residents resisted, arguing that the Shs5 million offered by the government per acre of land was insufficient for them to secure new land for relocation.
The government maintains that the affected villages are situated on its land, which previously served as a military base and an airstrip during President Idi Amin’s regime. Subsequently, people settled on this land as squatters. Article 237 (1&2) of the Ugandan Constitution stipulates that all land belongs to the citizens, but the central government or districts may acquire it in the public interest as determined by Parliament. Additionally, it holds all natural lakes, rivers, wetlands, forest reserves, game reserves, national parks, and land reserved for ecological and touristic purposes in public trust for the common good of all citizens.