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Bugambe Speaker links arrest to land grabbing cartel

Bugambe Sub-county Council Speaker, Nelson Atich, who was released on police bond on Tuesday, alleges that his arrest is connected to a land grabbing group.

Speaking to The Albertine Journal by phone on Wednesday, Atich, also serving as Katanga Parish Councilor in Kikuube district, clarified that he voluntarily presented himself to the police, contrary to initial reports suggesting that he was forcefully arrested.

Atich revealed that he had been under surveillance, with his voters warning him about suspicious individuals patrolling near his residence, cautioning him to avoid the village.

Subsequently, he learned that the Police Flying Squad Unit was looking for him.

“I engaged with the Flying Squad Unit, only to discover that they were pursuing Robert Basingaraho, a local resident allegedly for attempting to burn someone‚Äôs house. They attempted to involve me in his case, claiming i knew his whereabouts. However, upon clarification, the matter was resolved,” he added.

Basingaraho gained notoriety for collaborating with the late Joshua Tibagwa in 2014 to forcibly evict residents from a piece of land in Rwamutonga village, Bugambe Sub-County, Kikuube district.

Residents said police burnt their houses, destroyed crops and stole animals, leaving them displaced and destitute.

In 2015 then Masindi High Court Judge Simon Byabakama (currently serving as Electoral Commission Chairperson) ruled that it was a wrongful eviction.

In a lease agreement dated August 9, 2013, Tibagwa leased the land to McAlester Energy Resources, an American company, for 49 years at a premium of $1.65m (sh5.9b), acknowledging the presence of occupants on the land.

The families returned to their land in 2017 amid ongoing legal battles, arguing that they remain vulnerable to re-eviction.

Basingaraho, who initially facilitated the eviction, later claimed to have been misled and permitted the return of some displaced families on his land he had added on that of the deceased family.

He was subsequently arrested on what he terms as fabricated charges but was released on bond.

Atich contends that unidentified individuals have since seized the contested land owned by Bansigaraho and commenced cultivation.

Upon his visit to the police station, he was confronted with accusations of forgery and fraudulent land sale in Kikwite cell, Hoima City, by a local businessman.

Atich said to his amusement he had won an application in the same case staying away the ex-parte judgment.

“I submitted an application along with medical documents explaining my absence from court. However, the main civil case is still pending court determination.”

He declined to provide further details on the court proceedings, saying it was sub-judice.

However, he said when he was processing for police bond, he observed the presence of individuals implicated in the disputed land dealings covertly working to have him detained but police refrained.

He suggested that it appears the land grabbers aim to incriminate local leaders to facilitate their uninterrupted seizure of land, as it has been the practice in the past.

Julius Hakiza, the spokesperson for Albertine police, confirmed Atich’s release on polce bond pending investigations into the allegations.

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