I read the monitor newspaper today and really wanted to laugh, but could not because of how serious the comedy of foolishness and impunity actually is. http://www.monitor.co.ug/News/National/-/688334/1058656/-/cl4j7sz/-/index.html
The story in question is about a Lebanese investor who has leased a plot of land on Prince Charles Drive, Kololo. A very posh suburb of Kampala.He wants to build a $17 million hotel on the site. Except there is a problem, makerere university has laid claim on the property, produced the legal title and got the police to do its duty……..they stopped any development that the foreign investor intended.
That in itself would not raise much of an eye brow, but instead of heading to the courts for justice, Mr. Nassur Ramez, headed for state house and was granted an audience by president Museveni. A Ugandan joke states that a goat can get a presidential audience, all it needs is a name tag that says “foreign investor”. Ugandans don’t share the same privileges.
The presdent in his infinite wisdom orders the police to enable Mr. Ramez to take vacant possession of his land. The reason being the country needs such job creating, tax paying projects. And that is where the comedy ends and the worry starts.
Mr. Ramez actually bought the land from a one Janice Amayo, who leased him and transferred the land to him. Only nobody seems to know who she is and the investor cannot produce her. In short the chap was conned out of $3.5 million!!!!!! This a police case and they should pursue it with the utmost vigour. And they should also investigate Mr. Ramez because the plot is too easy to be believed that he did not realise what he was getting into. People like him always rely on the president making directives that are beyond his powers to bully their way across the country and this is the case here. The president has not bothered to look into the details and why should he, he never does.
The Makerere University is not taking its land case lying down and is clearly gearing up for a fight. It should be an interesting week ahead.
Sadly this is not the only case:
Uganda is the only country in the world where kids go home for the holidays and return to find their school has ceased to exist, having been given to investors. Shimoni primary and Kyagwe road primary schools are clear examples. No hotel has been built on the site of the former, 3 years later. I can only wonder which crowded classroom the kids ended up in.
The original site of Uganda Television was given to the Aya Brothers to build a hotel for the commonwealth heads of government meeting, its still not finished. The tragedy is that they demolished the old studio buildings with all the historical TV footage still inside!!!!!!
The attempted give away of Mabira forest land to the Mehta sugar barons and now the directive to the Uganda Wild life authority to lease land to the Madhivani sugar barons to build a golf course in Murchison falls national park follow the same trend. This is after their earlier attempt to build one in the Queen Elizabeth national Park was thwarted. The president of course has no time for environmental impact assessments, all he wants is jobs and taxes…….. apparently a few acres of golf course do not affect wildlife. The mabira forset give away resulted in riots, the first time Ugandans have ever stood up to a government in recent memory.
It does not help that the new executive director of the Uganda Wildlife fund says “There’s nothing wrong with the President allowing a golf course to be built in the park. It does not mean that the land has been given away.” Placing a pliable CEO in a crucial parastatal has certain benefits……you do the math.
Kenya has a long legacy of irrational land grabbing and presidential allocations, often involving relatives, cronies and sycophants of the big man. The country is only now beginning to unravel the mess, and unravel it they must. The country’s future stability may depend on it and no one expects it to be a a painless process. So why on earth is Uganda’s political class pursuing the same misguided path?
It should not be lost to anyone that with general elections around the corner, campaign donations from wealthy businessmen would come in pretty handy, so whats a plot of land here and there. Anyone want to try their luck?
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