Museveni is yet to fully pay Kassim Kiwanuka for 1999 purchase of the Kisozi ranch
By Jamil Bamulange
I read with interest the story titled “Museveni can’t cast the first stone in the fight against corruption” that appeared on this blog. While the writer, Asumani Ssempijja, does a good job bringing to light the depths of Museveni’s corruption, I feel he missed a few significant pieces of information that shows Museveni as both a master of grand corruption as well as petty exploitation of ordinary Ugandans for his own personal gain.
I was one of the people who tipped off a journalist from The Crusader in January 1999 on the purchase of a farm ostensibly for the National Enterprise Corporation (NEC). President Museveni, however, was merely using NEC as a front for his personal acquisition of a piece of land he had identified and coveted for his private ranch. The Kisozi farm is located in Gomba, Mpigi district.
Kassim Kiwanuka, from whom the land was purchased, had a total of 40 square miles. Out of this, NEC did in fact purchase 30 square miles. However, NEC was used only to conceal the 10 square miles that Museveni purchased from money Bright Rwamirama, the then Director of Finance of the National Resistance Army (NRA) put at his dosposal. Museveni paid 70 per cent of his portion of the land from money that Rwamirama had fleeced from salaries meant for soldiers and from an inflated count of the size of the army, the “ghost soldiers” phenomenon that was started by Museveni and was later blamed on Maj Gen James Kazini, leading to his conviction by general court martial in March 2008. Kazini took the blamed for a scheme set up by President Museveni himself and that led to the loss of $300m, though only $30,000 could be traced to him directly. Gen Kazini, who would later be assassinated, wept during sentencing, knowing fully well that his only crime was to heed the orders of his commander-in-chief.
Why Rwamirama didn’t pay the rest of the money that Museveni owed Kiwanuka remains a mystery. Indeed, efforts by Kiwanuka to collect the 30 per cent balance remained fruitless as he wrote letter after letter to the president requesting for the balance from the land purchase. Up to this day, the money has yet to be paid. On the contrary, harassment and intimidation have been the consistemt response from Museveni’s people at the previous land owner’s demands for final settlement of what Museveni owes him for his land.
After acquiring the 10 square miles and fencing it off, Museveni has been expanding the ranch relentlessly so that it now stands at slightly above 20 square miles, double the size purchased from Kiwanuka. The February 2018 article by The Observer “Kisozi family accuses President Museveni of land grabbing,” tells the story of how Museveni has gone about expanding his ranch through forceful evictions. People who complain are suppressed into eventually giving up, which perhaps explains why Kassim Kiwanuka no longer bothers to talk about his 30 per cent balance of the purchase price Museveni still owes him. Some of the people who have been victims told the paper that “there’s nothing we can do.” Kiwanuka surely feels the same way after more than 20 years of waiting for his balance.
Those who have followed the Lusanja land evictions understand how the story pans out. Some time last year residents of Lusanja, Wakiso district – part of the Greater Kampala metropolitan area, went up in arms when Museveni’s younger brother Saleh sent troops to the area to evict over 70 families on a 10 acre piece of land that left 350 houses demolished and their resodents homeless, angry and crying out for help.
Apparently Saleh was intervening on behalf of “businessman” Medard Kiconco who was said to have purchased that land. However, Kiconco – like Bright Rwamirama before him in the matter of the Kisozi land – was merely a front for First Daughter, Natasha, who has developed interest in land and has been acquiring vast swaths of it across the country with the help of Uncle Saleh and his goons that are time and again deployed to secure Natasha’s illegally acquired properties. This didn’t stop the courts from issuing a verdict in October last year that the rightful owner of the Lusanja land is indeed Kiconco!
In other words, no even the courts have been spared from intimidation when it comes to land acquisition, whether by Museveni or his family members. Indeed, the Museveni kleptocracy and larceny run across both the grand and petty ends of the corruption continuum.