Otafiire takes over govt ranch with 1066 acres

The Njeru Stock Farm land that is being encroached upon. Inset is Otafiire

The justice and constitutional affairs minister, Kahinda Otafiire, has been accused of encroaching on the Njeru Stock Farm, a 1,066 acre government ranch in Buikwe district. Otafiire claims he bought the land from the ‘rightful’ owners and now wants to develop it. However, the state minister for agriculture in charge of Animal Husbandry, Joy Kabatsi expressed shock when we contacted her.

“Tell him he has bought air. That ranch is a government property and I would be shocked that my colleague could proceed and deploy army men when he is aware that the Commission of Inquiry visited the same property and ordered the status quo to remain. No one is allowed to develop it, until investigations are over,” Kabatsi said.

She wondered why Otafiire, a justice minister, would defy a judicial probe decision.

“Nobody is above the law, and Otafiire, as a Minister of Justice, should know this,” Kabatsi said.

She noted that they would discuss with the army leadership over the deployment and ensure all those deployed are removed from the Government facility. She vowed to defend the ranch from encroachers. On Tuesday, a group of four armed men, led by one Wilberforce Muhangi, stormed the ranch being used for breeding animals and introduced themselves as representatives of Otafiire. They also showed the administrators a copy of the title, which had been transferred from the family of Christopher Lule to Otafiire under instrument number MKO-00039864.

The Njeru Stock Farm manager, Dr Noel Baguma, confirmed the developments. He said a large portion of their land had been cordoned off by the army and that they had been asked to vacate that part of the land.

“They came here on Tuesday and showed us a copy of the title. Two hours later, eight trucks carrying building materials, escorted by the army arrived at the ranch and we were told to vacate. They dumped their building materials and left army men to guard them. On Wednesday, they deployed 21 armed soldiers to the ranch and we have been given an ultimatum to leave,” Baguma said.

He noted that work at the farm had become paralysed and the situation tense as the army men were threatening to shoot any staff of the ranch who declined to take their instructions.

 “We cannot visit some of the sections they have taken over and they have even set up a camp here,” Baguma said.

Gen. Otafiire confirmed he had taken portions of the land, insisting he had bought it using his hard earned money.

“This is not government land. It was private land and the owner took Njeru Town Council to court and won the case. He then approached me and I bought it under willing buyer, willing seller arrangement. My title is genuine,” Otafiire insisted.

He noted that the army men were deployed on the land under his instructions because he needed it for development. Asked whether he knew part of the land he had fenced belonged to the Njeru Stock Farm, Otafiire said this had never been a government ranch.

“If it was a government ranch, I am sure the Ministry of Agriculture and that of Lands could have contacted me, but they have not,” he stated.

Otafiire noted that he had bought the land four years ago and he was aware there were officials from the Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) team who were trying to fight him. OWC is headed by Gen Salim Saleh UGANDANZ has learnt that the officials in charge of the ranch immediately informed the Njeru Resident District Commissioner (RDC), Jane Frances Kagayi, who went and confirmed the presence of the takeover and army deployment at the facility.

“I was on the land and armed men confronted me. They told me the land belonged to the minister and they even gave me copies of the land title bearing his names,” Kagayi said.

In her letter, dated February 13, 2019, the RDC stated that the manager of the ranch reported a group of people who came with armed men to inspect the land.

“On February 12, they came back with a copy of the land title in the names of Otafiire, neither signed nor stamped. Later in the evening, they started delivering building materials, sand, hardcore stones, guarded by armed men,” the RDC stated, requesting Bamugemereire to urgently intervene