Land Dispute Divides Masindi District Leadership over Bunyoro University Establishment

Wednesday, July 26, 2023
A collage of Masindi Speaker, Mr Kiirya(L) and Masindi Chairman, Mr Byaruhanga (R).PHOTO/COURTESY
Busiinge Aggrey
5 Min Read

A contentious issue has emerged in Masindi District, as its Local Government Chairman, Mr. Cosmas Byaruhanga, and the Speaker, Mr. Moses Kiirya, find themselves at odds over the identification of land for a public university catering to the Masindi campus in Bunyoro.

The dispute centers around a 131-acre piece of land known as Kayanja, which the council passed a resolution to use for the university on March 31, 2023, despite the availability of a 115-acre Kihonda demonstration land for the same purpose.

However, new information came to light in a letter dated May 8, 2023, signed by Dr. Egau Oku on behalf of the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education and Sports. The letter revealed that the Kayanja land, measuring 52.7 hectares, is registered in the name of Magalies Distillers Uganda Ltd. As a result, it is ineligible for use in constructing the public university, as it had already been leased to the company for a period of 49 years, from February 1, 2001, to February 1, 2050.

On May 30, 2023, during a district council meeting, Mr. Kiirya declined to reconsider using the Kihonda farm land for the university establishment, citing irregularities and forgery in the letter. He described the letter as “irrelevant.”

At the same meeting, the Speaker advised Mr. Byaruhanga to collaborate with the leadership of Masindi Municipal Council to provide a formal response regarding the Kayanja land before the district council rescinded its position.

Faced with this situation, Mr. Byaruhanga, in a letter dated July 14, 2023, requested Mr. Kiirya to convene an extraordinary council meeting to address the encumbrances associated with the recommended Kayanja land. He emphasized the urgency of catching up with the university establishment process, declaring the matter an emergency under Rule 13(1) of the standard rules of procedure for Local Government Councils in Uganda. The deadline for resolving the matter was set for July 21, 2023.

In response on July 17, 2023, Mr. Kiirya dismissed the idea of an extraordinary council meeting, arguing that an ordinary council meeting scheduled for July should be sufficient. He criticized any attempt to fund the council in exchange for decisions favoring certain parties, seeing it as a corrupting influence on the council’s independence.

As of the publication time, the subject matter of establishing Bunyoro University for the Greater Masindi campus was not listed on the Order Paper for the upcoming council sitting scheduled for July 27, 2023.

In a phone interview with The Black Examiner, Mr. Byaruhanga accused Mr. Kiirya and other council members of engaging in politics concerning the university issue, which has caused divisions among Masindi District Local Government Councilors. He emphasized that the Ministry of Education and Sports had already leased the Kayanja land to Magalies Distillers Ltd, leaving the district government with no authority to lease the land for the university.

Mr. Byaruhanga alleged that Mr. Kiirya seeks to undermine his tenure in office, possibly leading to a loss of credibility with the electorate. He expressed concern that the district’s internal strife could result in the Greater Masindi campus being allocated to neighboring districts instead.

The chairman urged the speaker and his supporters to refrain from associating government programs with individuals, as it adversely affects local residents and their development prospects. He emphasized the transient nature of his office tenure compared to the lasting impact of government initiatives.

In response, Mr. Kiirya asserted that it is the responsibility of Masindi district leaders to investigate the procedures used by the investor to acquire the Kayanja land title, suspecting foul play due to potential lapses in adherence to proper procedures. He called for a thorough examination of the matter to secure the land from alleged grabbers and facilitate the establishment of the university on suitable grounds.

Mr. Kiirya pointed out that despite a majority of the Masindi district council voting in favor of leasing the Kayanja land, the chairman had failed to execute the decision. He emphasized the need for a fresh induction on how council business operates.

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