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Inside health workers protest against giveaway of Jinja hospital land to USMC

JInja, (UG):- Tensions marred Jinja City on Monday as police deployed tear gas to disperse health workers who had staged a sit-down strike to protest the planned giveaway of part of the purported hospital land to the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council (UMSC) for development.

The contested land, situated along Clive Road West next to Jinja Hospital, has been a point of contention between the Muslim community and the land commission for years and DailyExpress has established that part of the said land has been managed by the Muslim community and next to the contested land is a Muslim cemetery.

Health workers, armed with placards, stormed the hospital gates to voice their dissent against the allocation of land to the Muslim community, citing a court ruling by Jinja High Court Judge Justice Eribu in favor of the hospital, halting all activities on the four-acre piece of land this year.

Despite the court ruling, district authorities allegedly allowed Muslim activities to continue on the disputed land.

“Justice Eribu ruled on April 4, 2024, that the land adjacent to Jinja Hospital rightfully belongs to the hospital and also issued decrees ordering all activities on that land to cease, however, it is regrettable that the Regional Police Commander (RPC) and Resident District Commissioner (RCC) have allowed land grabbers to encroach upon hospital property unchecked,” said Samuel Kasibante, one of the hospital staff.

The Jinja Hospital principal administrator, Mr David Semakula stated that the staff sought a peaceful demonstration over the contested land due to dissatisfaction with the ongoing situation.

Following the intervention of police, tear gas was eventually halted, and a meeting was convened at the Resident District Commissioner’s (RCC) office to address the matter involving all stakeholders and by press time, the hospital was yet to issue a formal communication following the meeting.

Despite police swiftness to use tear gas to condense the situation which had turned chaotic, this publication has understood from some reports that the District Police Commander promptly intervened to cease the use of tear gas and the situation was later managed before responsible authorities could engage in a closed meeting.

“The staff aimed to conduct a peaceful demonstration regarding the disputed land between the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council (UMSC) and the Uganda Land Commission (ULC). The situation has now been brought under control, and there is currently a security meeting ongoing at the office of the Resident District Commissioner (RCC),” Mr. Semakula said.

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He added; “We will release an official statement following the conclusion of this meeting. The police deployed tear gas to manage the situation, but the District Police Commander (DPC) intervened promptly to cease the use of tear gas.”

Early this year, the State Minister for Lands Dr. Sam Mayanja handed over the disputed land to the Jinja Muslim community.

After the then meeting with Minister Mayanja, Faizal Mohammed who spoke on behalf of UMSC said the land was first earmarked as the Ahmadiyya Muslim sect burial grounds in 1927 adding that the land was given to the Muslim community through a decree by the former President, Idi Amin Dada, who had come to preside over the funeral of the late Colonel Suleiman’s wife and his son in 1974, as an extension in case the cemetery fills up.

Faizal further said that, before their court battles with Jinja Hospital, they had previously been in land disputes with businessmen and powerful politicians whom he didn’t mention, attesting that they even attempted to construct arcades in the area throughout the early 2000s, only to be blocked by protests from the Muslim community.

Mayanja argued that, much as the contested land had been taken over by the Uganda Land Commission (ULC), UMSC reserves priority for ownership, since they have been sitting tenants on the land for several decades.

He explained that ULC endorsed UMSC to acquire a freehold title on the same land in 2010, but they were frustrated by saboteurs, who equally had an interest in grabbing this land but he vowed to liaise with other state agencies to ensure that UMSC is accorded a freehold land title before the end of this year.

However, speaking to DailyExpress just after Minister Mayanja visited the area; the UMSC Chairperson Prof. Dr Muhamadi Lubega Kisambira said they were battling land grabbers in all parts of the country with most of them manipulating available systems to legitimize continued illegal occupancy on their land, saying that most of their land wars are fueled by powerful politicians and businessmen.

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Meanwhile, Minister Judith Nalule Nabakooba addressed the ongoing wrangles over the land on Monday at the Uganda Media Center, stating that discussions had taken place between her and Deputy Minister Mayanja and that they resolved to summon all stakeholders involved in the matter, with Hon Minister Mayanja taking the lead. Minister Nabakooba said; “I await a report from Minister Mayanja before guiding on the way forward.”

By press time, our effort to get any comment from security about the matter that happened today at the health facility was yet to bear fruits, however, we noted that four health workers were arrested by police but were later released unconditionally.

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