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Hima Agent Quizzed On Mwello Land Acquisition :: Uganda Radionetwork

Hima Agent Quizzed On Mwello Land Acquisition

Danson Byaguma together with business partner and former Hima Cement Employee, Ambrose Byiona are said to have used the exploration license to buy land from the residents, claiming that the company has rights on the land.

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The Land Probe has grilled Danson Byaguma, the Managing Director of Optima Mines Consultancy Limited on allegations of coercing residents of Mwello Parish in Mulanda Sub County in Tororo district to sell their land to Hima Cement Ltd.

  The contested land has marble deposits. Hima Cement Ltd has applied for a transfer of the land, which is communally owned. Some of the land owners petitioned the Justice Catherine Bamugemereire Land Commission accusing Hima Cement Ltd of threatening to evict them from their land unless they accept compensation and leave.

  They claimed that Hima took more than one hundred residents to an unknown place in Mbale where they kept them for a day and offered them between Shillings 900,000 and 2.5 million for an acre of land. Hima Cement secured a mineral exploration license but went ahead to coerce residents to accept compensation and leave.

  Danson Byaguma together with business partner and former Hima Cement Employee, Ambrose Byiona are said to have used the exploration license to buy land from the residents, claiming that the company has rights on the land.

  While appearing before the Commission this week, the former Commissioner of Geological Survey and Mines, Edward Kato, said the exploration license was only limited to quantification of the available minerals and mapping the area.

  It didn’t include acquiring land.  The Commission tasked Byaguma to explain under what mandate they acquired land. He explained that he was contracted by Hima to acquire surface rights. When asked to present an agreement he entered with Hima, he said they had an oral agreement.  

He however, said there was an affidavit sworn by the lawyers of Hima lawyers indicating that the company had instructed Optima mines to acquire land on its behalf. The Commission lead counsel, Ebert Byenkya dismissed his argument, saying Hima didn’t have rights to acquire land and therefore Byaguma couldn’t work on their behalf.  

Cue in: “An affidavit to…”

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Byaguma denied coercing residents into selling their land, saying they only dealt with 14 residents who agreed to sell their land at Shillings 9 million per acre hence acquiring 30 acres of land.

  He told the Commission that they agreed with the vendors on a willing buyer willing seller basis. Byaguma explained that they took the vendors to Mbale to pay them through Bank of Africa.

Commissioner Mary Ochan Oduka asked Byaguma why he had to take residents to Mbale to make the payment. Byaguma said it was for safety reasons because they didn’t want to give large sums of money to the residents in cash. 

He later contradicted himself when he said that he transferred money to their accounts and some picked all their money immediately. Ochan wondered how secure the residents were when they moved with millions of Shillings from Mbale to Mwello in Tororo.

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Byaguma acquired land under a lease arrangement for 21 years. However, six of the fourteen residents accused Byaguma of misrepresentation. They sued him and the company for lying to them that they were they were leasing their land for 21 days.  

However, it was later changed to 21 years in the agreement. It is alleged that Byaguma was able to dupe residents since many were illiterate and didn’t have any legal representation.

  Residents were able to realize the fraud when an association containing elites under Mwello Land Protection Association engaged them after learning of the activities of Hima Cement and its agents in the area.     However, Byaguma insists that the residents were fully aware of what they were signing as communication between the buyer and seller was aided by a translator, Peter Othieno.       //Cue in: “There was a…”

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However, Justice Bamugemereire dismissed the argument, saying if residents knew the transaction was effective they wouldn’t come up in large numbers to challenge Byaguma.

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According to the Lands Act, land under Customary ownership can only be leased out when the land owner acquires a certificate of Customary Ownership. Byaguma didn’t secure a certificate of customary ownership from any of the residents.  

He instead applied for a lease from Tororo District Land Board. The Commission Lead Counsel Ebert Byenkya says by applying for a lease from the district land board gives the impression that the land is not owned by any residents.

  This therefore means that after the 21-year lease has expired, the land is retained by the land board as the owner leaving the residents out. The commission has summoned the managing director of Hima Cement Managing Director to explain their role in the matters.

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