UGANDA, Lira | Real Muloodi News | Lira Regional Referral Hospital is set to evict more than 200 families from their homes in Teso Bar “A” Cell, Lira City, due to a long-standing land dispute.
The contentious land covers Plot 9 -19 Ngetta Road and Plot 6 -14 Agoro Road in Lira City West Division, which measures approximately eight acres.
The hospital management, accompanied by armed police personnel, planted pegs and iron bars to demarcate the boundaries of its land.
However, the move has sparked outrage among locals who claim they have been living there for over 70 years.
Members of the Liira clan have been occupying the land, which was once donated by their forefathers to establish the hospital during the British colonial administration in 1928.
History of the Land Dispute
The Liira clan, which was the first inhabitant in the area, donated part of their land to establish the hospital. Lira City and Lira District derived their names from the Liira clan.
Haji Musa Ayo, former Liira clan chief, claims to have been born in the disputed area in 1943. He alleges that the land on which the hospital stands was donated by their forefathers to the government for free.
Ayo also said that the fencing around the neighbouring Lira School of Comprehensive Nursing and Midwifery, which is part of Lira hospital, was erected by white men who demarcated the land from theirs.
The conflict over ownership of the land intensified when the hospital dragged 21 people to court, and Peter Ayela, 85, who was born in the disputed area and has lived there all his life acted as a witness since he was aware that the land had never belonged to the hospital.
Mr Ayela said, “This is our customary land belonging to the Liira clan that my father left for his children and grandchildren to develop,” he added.
The case was pending in court since 2007, and in March 2022, the High Court in Lira issued a ruling in favour of the hospital, which was upheld by the Court of Appeal. Members of the Liira clan, who are now considered squatters, must vacate the land.
Ayela who is among the more than 200 people who will be evicted claims the land belongs to his father, who was a farmer and gave much of his land to the British government.
According to Ayela, the hospital dragged 21 people and others to court, and he was their witness since he is aware that the land has never belonged to the hospital.
The conflict over ownership of the land emerged in 2012, and Ayela said that if there were any mark stones planted on the land without their notice, they should be shown where they are located.
Or if there is any agreement Lira Regional Referral Hospital made with his late father on when they should leave the land, then it should be produced.
Fatuma Umar, who was born in the same contested area in 1950, said that they had been living in good harmony with Lira Regional Referral Hospital for the last 73 years.
Umar said that her parents were neighbours with the hospital administration and could share several things with them.
However, when they fled to Tanzania during Idi Amin’s regime, part of their land was given away by the Lira Municipal Council, now Lira City Council.
“After coming back from exile, we found our land given to New Generation Secondary School but when we complained, Lira Municipal Council ordered the school to pay us Shs600,000,” Umar said.
In March 2022, the High Court in Lira ruled in favour of the hospital and issued an eviction notice. The court case had been ongoing since 2007, and the hospital management says it has a land title from Uganda Land Commission (ULC).
However, human rights defender Beatrice Okot of Women Human Rights Defenders Network-Uganda (WHRDN-U) has vowed to fight the eviction notice and ensure that the matter is taken up by the parliamentary committee on human rights and Chief Justice Alphonse Owiny Dollo.
“I am going to take this matter very seriously and ensure that it reaches the parliamentary committee on human rights and even the Chief Justice Alphonse Owiny Dollo,” Ms Okot said while meeting the affected families on March 24.
Hospital Administrator’s Comments
Peter Okello Odeke, the Lira Hospital principal administrator, said that he was instructed by the hospital board to open the facility’s land boundaries when he assumed office seven months ago.
He revealed that one of the pending issues was the encroachment on the hospital land, and a court ruling in favour of the hospital was made in March 2022.
Okello said that there were no boundary markers, but the hospital had to take action to protect its land.
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