UGANDA, Gomba | Real Muloodi News | Police have arrested 10 people for the alleged murder of a surveyor in the district of Gomba. Their arrest follows violent land clashes on 26th August that left one person dead and four others injured.
It is alleged that the chaos ensued after the residents received information that some people were surveying their land while being escorted by armed police officers, with the intention of evicting them.
The residents found the surveyors measuring the 102 acres of disputed land in Buwanguzi village, Mpenjja Sub County, Gomba district, Katonga region. The police who had come with the surveyors fled for their lives, as the angry residents wielding machetes and sticks attacked the group.
Daniel Mugabi, a surveyor, was killed, while the alleged landowner, David Masiko, and three other surveyors, Frank Kasasa, Segujja Mukasa, and another, sustained significant injuries.
The surveyors with lessor injuries received treatment at Gomba hospital, and those with more severe injuries were transported to Kampala for urgent medical care.
The Katonga Regional Police Spokesperson, Lydia Tumushabe, said that those arrested are charged with murder, attempted murder and assault.
The arrested include; Celesio Musiitwa, Aidah Nabiryo, Ronald Kiyingi, Christine Malinga, Derrick Ssebaggala, Florence Nanyondo, Ismael Mutebi, Kasibante and Buwanguzi village vice chairperson Musisi.
Spokesperson Tumushabe further said that preliminary investigations revealed the surveyors accessed the disputed land without informing the local leaders. The tenants interpreted the surveyor’s actions as a ruse to drive them off their land.
Tumushabe condemned the actions of the residents, stating there are other means they could have used.
When asked why they caused such havoc, the residents explained that the land belonged to one Andereya Nume, but was claimed by Hasifah Nabawanda, who later sold it to the alleged owner, David Masiko.
John Bosco Segirinya, the LCIII chairperson Mpenja sub county, said that the dispute on the land follows disagreements between the Bibanja holders and the new buyer, Matsiko.
He said that the former landlord Nabawanda sold the land after failing to agree with the occupants, and that the new landlord wanted to forcefully evict the occupants, which caused violence.
According to Segirinya, about 150 households occupy the land.
Daniel Mugabe’s death is not the first incident of a surveyor being killed in a land dispute. In 2017, locals attacked surveyors while they were trying to open a disputed piece of land in Kigorobya Sub County in Hoima. Locals wielding spears, arrows, and machetes attacked them, outnumbering the police, injuring and setting three vehicles on fire.
Why Surveyors are Victims in a Land Dispute?
According to Alozious Gonza, the Vice President of the Institution of Surveyors of Uganda, there is often a misconception about a surveyor’s role when it comes to disputed land.
Because a surveyor may be moving with a landowner, it is assumed they are on the side of the landowner, when in fact they play an impartial role. A surveyors’ work is merely to guide the public regarding the land, following the data that is already held by government.
To reduce incidences of violence, Gonza says adequate preparation is required when opening boundaries for a disputed land. It is vital to seek engagements of local leadership and police. Further, whenever possible the conflicting parties should also be available during the boundary opening exercise.
He says that individuals who seek to open boundaries for disputed land should appreciate the sensitivity of the matter, and must be honest with surveyors and warn them regarding the nature and reasons for conflict. It is also important to understand the surveyors capacities with regards to a given situation.
For example, young surveyors who are fresh out of school may lack experience and proper field training that could be beneficial, such as how to handle a rowdy and angry mob.
Gonza says that rather than exploring the proper channels of land dispute resolution, angry tenants often resort to disrupt the lawful activities of the other party, beating up surveyors and destroying valuable equipment.
“When on ground, we are part of the solution to your problem and not the problem. Please don’t kill us with pangas and machetes. This does not solve the dispute at hand,” Gonza implores.
What’s the Way Forward?
According to Alozious Gonza, the government should prosecute those who use unconventional methods of resolving land disputes. Government prosecutions will serve as a deterrent to others.
“As the Institution of Surveyors of Uganda, we will continue to do our best to sensitize the public about the work of Surveyors in Uganda and that we don’t pose a threat to any landholder, albeit recognizing the wrong elements within our profession, including the quacks that undermine our efforts.,” said Mr Gonza.
He concluded by saying that the public should only use the services of a registered surveyor, as these are the only people mandated under the law to practice land surveying in Uganda.