Thousands of people who have been encroaching on land belonging to the Uganda Railways Corporation (URC) have been given a six-month ultimatum to vacate.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, URC said the land would be used to revamp railway transport in the country.
“The government of Uganda in line with national regional objectives has prioritised interventions towards revamping of the railway transport sector. In support of this initiative, URC must urgently put a stop to all illegal occupation, grabbing and encroachment on its land countrywide to operate safely and efficiently in line with its statutory mandate,” the statement read in part.
“Accordingly, URC hereby informs the general public that whoever is illegally occupying, has encroached upon or has grabbed railway land in any location within Uganda, must vacate the same within a period of not more than 180 days (six months) effective from April 1,” URC adds.
The URC urged the encroachers to comply to avoid unnecessary inconvenience.
In December last year, the Works minister, Gen Katumba Wamala, appointed a land investigations committee to, among others, establish boundaries of all the Uganda Railways land, establish the status of ownership of URC land and assist the company to take possession of all established encroached land.
The committee was also tasked to collect documentation for any purported ownership by encroachers, provide monthly investigation interim reports and provide URC land status report to the minister within 60 days.
The committee would also sensitise residents who have encroached on the land.
However, during a meeting with residents in Kireka, Bweyogerere, and surrounding areas on Tuesday, the affected people protested the move.
“My father bore me on this railway land 56 years ago and put boundaries to our land, so where do you want me to go after staying long on this land?” Mr Said Kalule, a Kireka resident, asked.
Another resident said: “They (government) have failed to build the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) line and they are here seeking to revamp the old line.”
Other residents said the six-month period is a short time to enable them relocate their families and businesses.
Ms Angela Nabulya, the secretary of the land investigations committee, said those to be affected are those staying within a range of 150 metres from the railway line in the substations areas such as Bujuuko, Namanve and Nalukolongo.
Call to revamp railway transport
Amid the Covid-19 induced lockdown last year, President Museveni called for the revamping of the railway transport to move cargo instead of using trucks. This was at a time when the country was registering several coronavirus cases from truck drivers from Kenya and Tanzania. “Stopping cargo is suicidal, but I think cargo by plane and train is much easier, but until we sort this out, I appeal to Ugandans to ‘swallow’ your anger and use more wisdom because if we stop the cargo, how will our exports move to other countries?” Mr Museveni said.