On September 21, fifteen armed men, led by one Wilberforce Muhangi, raided a government stock farm in Buikwe district and destroyed machinery, equipment, a veterinary workshop, laboratory and residential structures.
The raiders, who hailed from a construction company, Global International Alliance, say they were acting on the orders of justice minister Kahinda Otafiire.
The 750-acre farm is the National Animal Genetic Resource Centre and Data Bank (NAGRC&DB), popularly known as the Njeru Stock Farm. The veterinary workshop site that was destroyed sits on 5.2 hectares and has since been fenced off using iron sheets. The raiders later loaded the items they had destroyed onto trucks and drove away.
“Otafiire’s lawyers hired my company and in this particular project, we were to clear the land,” Muhangi said.
However, he denied claims that they took any materials from the site. Njeru Stock Farm has existed since 1949. It was established to serve as a demonstration farm and a training, breeding and research centre.
It also had a veterinary workshop. It is not the first time men claiming to act on the orders of Otafiire are raiding the facility. In January, the same group, again led by Muhangi, raided the facility and ordered NAGRC&DB to vacate a section of the land, which they fenced off.
Otafiire speaks out
Otafiire, on Friday, told New Vision that he bought the land genuinely and that as a justice minister, he could not destroy a building on a ranch without proper documents.
“Do you know that I am a minister of justice and as such, I cannot destroy a building without a court order. The land is mine. What was NAGRIC&BD doing there?” Otafiire asked.
He noted that he was out of the country, but was aware that one of his workers went and secured his land and chased away those he felt were a nuisance.
“They were trespassing on my land. I have the title and I am the owner,” Otafiire added.
However, when challenged with the fact that NAGRIC&BD existed since 1949 and that the state minister for animal husbandry, Joy Kabatsi, had earlier stated that he had bought air, Otafiire said:
“It is true, they were on that land, but they were chased away by the courts after they failed to pay their lease. I am not stupid. The minister has since dropped her claim.”
Otafiire noted that he bought the land four years ago under willing buyer, willing seller arrangement.
However, earlier, he said he was aware that there were officials from the Operation Wealth Creation team who were fighting him.
Our Website has learnt that Otafiire’s men flashed a copy of the title, indicating that he had acquired rights over the land after the family of Christopher Lule transferred it to him under instrument number MKO- 00039864.
Animal husbandry minister Joy Kabatsi insisted that the land still belonged to the Government and that they had a 38-year lease on it.
She said Otafiire’s actions were despicable and that she had raised the matter before President Yoweri Museveni and to other army generals to reign in, but Otafiire had continued acting with impunity.
“I have raised this matter in Cabinet before and also raised it with President Museveni. I have now left it in the hand of Gen. Jeje Odongo, the internal affairs minister, who is the one handling the generals. The five acres he has grabbed had been given to an investor to build a factor for animal feeds. Otafiire is acting with impunity,” Kabatsi said.
She implored Otafiire to behave like Gen. Museveni, who she said despite having all the executive powers, had not gone around grabbing property.
“He should take a leaf from Gen. Museveni, who purchases land using either his own or Government money.”
She noted that nobody is above the law and that with time, Gen. Otafiire will account for his greed.
In February, Kabatsi wrote to the Attorney General, asking him to intervene and save the Njeru Stock Farm from land grabbers, led by the Njeru municipal council and the Uganda Land Commission (ULC).