Police officers in Luwero are under fire from local leaders for malicious prosecution targeting them to aid land grabbers. Several LC 1, LC 2, and LC 3 Chairpersons have been arrested in the past for staging protests against land grabbing. In most cases, police prefer charges of criminal trespass and malicious damage against the local leaders. The latest victims are Willy Luwomwa, the Kamira sub-county LC 3 Chairperson, and the Kiramantugo village LC I Chairperson, Abdul Asiimwe.
The two were locked up at Luwero Central Police Station in relation to a complaint by Dr. Moses Muwonge accusing them of trespassing on his land and killing his goats. This came after Lukomwa led residents to re-open a road that was closed by Dr. Muwonge blocking several settlers on a disputed part of his 500 acres of land from accessing their gardens. Other leaders who were arrested last year for leading protests against land evictions are Abdul Mpiima, the LC II Chairperson of Bubuubi Parish, and Godfrey Kazibwe the LC I Chairman of Bubuubi village in Zirobwe sub-county.
Now, LC 5 and LC 3 Chairpersons have condemned the arrests, saying they are intended to aid land grabbing. Moses Ssebalamu, the LC 3 Chairperson of Wobulenzi town council says that they have established that landlords bribe police officers to arrest and prosecute the local leaders with the intention of intimidating them. According to Ssebalamu, in some cases, landlords plant evidence on their property or kill animals to ensure the local leaders are locked up so as to push through with their mission.
Ssebalamu, who doubles as the Chairperson of the Leaders’ Forum, says that they have resolved to meet with Police and Resident District Commissioner to get an explanation over the malicious prosecutions. Sperito Kiroli, the LC III Chairperson of the Zirobwe sub-county says that apart from local leaders, the Police have repeatedly slapped charges of criminal trespass against tenants on disputed land even when these are found to have lived there for decades.
“One wonders why Police target only tenants and local leaders who resist illegal evictions but are slow to arrest landlords who destroy property. We ask Police to stop malicious prosecutions when such cases are brought before them,” Kiroli said. Erastus Kibirango, the LC 5 Chairperson of Luwero district says that the role of leaders is to ensure that the land rights of tenants who are disadvantaged are respected before any eviction is done.
He however expressed disappointment that several police officers opt to side with the oppressors and open cases against local leaders without evidence to aid land grabbing.
Richard Bwabye, the Luwero Resident District Commissioner, says that the latest incident clearly indicates that the leaders were slapped with trumped-up charges, saying that will pursue the matter to ensure the charges are dropped.
Living Twazagye, the Luwero District Police Commander regretted the latest arrest of local leaders, saying the implicated landlord is also facing arrest over malicious damage to the property of his tenants. Twazagye and Kibirango have since resolved to organize meetings involving chairpersons to resolve their differences as well as sensitize them on their roles in the fight against crime.
According to the annual crime police report for 2021, Luwero district registered the highest number of criminal trespass cases with 192cases, followed by Kasangati division with 163 cases and Mpigi with 155 cases among other districts.
The district came second among the districts with the highest cases of malicious damage to property with 146 cases, mostly related to land conflicts.URN.