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UGANDA: Investor grabs public land on source of the Nile with help of regime cohorts

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Residents protest as investor fences off open space at R. Nile

UGANDA, Jinja (DAILY MONITOR). A section of residents in Jinja Municipality have called on relevant authorities to intervene as a private developer has fenced off an open space close to the Source of the Nile.
The latest standoff has been sparked off by a decision by Black Eagle Investments Limited, a private firm owned by Kampala tycoon, Habib Kagimu, to fence off Plot 1 to 9 on Bridge Street.

The contested plot is adjacent to both the Source of the Nile Agriculture and Trade Show Grounds and Jinja Golf Course.
Back Eagle intends to erect a 140-roomed five star hotel that will create 250 jobs in direct employment and another 500 in indirect employment. The plans are under threat as some residents have petitioned the National Physical Planning Authority (NPPA), accusing the firm of breaching the terms it was given when the plan was endorsed.

According to a March 2 letter addressed to the secretary of the planning authority, and copied to the Inspectorate of Government (IGG) and the town clerk, residents accuse Black Eagle of enclosing what was meant to be an open space.
They also accused Jinja Municipal Council of having lied about the size of the available land.

“I wish to bring to your attention the facts laid before your board by a lethargic municipal in regard to Plot 1-9 Bridge Street; is a complete misrepresentation of what is obtained on the ground. The land in question [open space], is less than 12 acres. It is approximately 4.2 hectares (10 acres),” the letter reads in part.

The Jinja town clerk, Mr Francis Byamukama, however, dismissed the allegation of falsification of acreage but acknowledged concerns about encroachment on the open space.
Mr Osman Ahmed Noor, the chief executive officer of Habib Investments Limited, which owns Black Eagle, denied any wrongdoing.
“This must be some sort of misunderstanding. We are not working contrary to any of the conditions that were set,” he said.

The genesis
This is the latest twist in a 10-year row that has been raging on since July 2008 when the Jinja District Land Board allocated the land to Black Eagle.
Hardly had the allocation been finalised than the LCIV Council and Jinja Central Division started challenging it.

Council members led by Mr Muhammad Baswari Kezaala and Mr Kirunda Mubarak alleged that the allocation should not have been carried out without their approval since the land lies within their physical and administrative areas of jurisdiction. Despite the council spiting fire over the matter, the district technocrats went ahead to receive Shs82.8million as premium for the land and continued collecting ground rent.
The collections however weakened the councils’ grounds for litigation and they were forced to back down.

The fight was left to the concerned residents who petitioned the IGG to probe the allocation process but were dealt a blow in 2012 when the office issued a report which absolved Black Eagle and the land board of any wrongdoing.

“If Jinja Municipal Council is still interested in the land, it should together with the district land board compensate Black Eagle Investments Limited,” the IGG recommended.
The IGG also guided that, “alternatively, Black Eagle Investments Limited can apply to council for change of use since or if the place is considered a green belt”.

THE APPROVALS
The council endorsed both Black Eagle’s application for an extension of the lease to 99 years and backed the firm’s application for a change of land use from open space to five star hotel.

On January 25, Mr Savino Katsigaire, writing on behalf of the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Lands, communicated NPPA’s conditional approval of the change of land use. “The purpose of this communication is to inform you that the board approved your request to change of land use for only five of the 12 acres,” the letter reads in parts.

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