Sylvia Owori Embroiled in Land Disputes in Tororo

Sylvia Damalie Owori, the Deputy Director of Operation Wealth Creation-OWC is embroiled in several land disputes with more than 15 families in Tororo municipality. The families accuse Owori of using her security connections in her attempt to displace them from their homes.

One of the contested land totaling 6.5 acres sits on plot 8B along Busia Road, adjacent to Agururu Primary School in Agururu B Village. Local journalist Juma Seyyid Nyero, who also occupies part of the contested land explains that Owori emerged around 2017, claiming the land belonged to her late father, George William Owori, who allegedly acquired it in 1976.

“While this is customary land, we obtained it through our hard-earned money. We invested in surveys, acquired land titles, and developed the land. Over the years, Owori sporadically appeared but never followed through. Now, she’s determined to take our land,” he told our reporter.

Seyyid added that in a recent development, Owori convened a meeting with local leaders under the guise of discussing security, but the agenda swiftly shifted to the land in question. Suspicion arose because some of the people in the meeting were unfamiliar faces.

“We suspect they aimed to exploit meeting minutes as a basis for their land takeover strategy. This isn’t the first attempt. In 2022, Owori tried to change the land’s status from customary to freehold, but the local land committee rejected the process,” Seyyid added. Our reporter could not independently verify this allegation as none of the said committee members were available for interview by the time of publishing this story.

When contacted, Owori denied the land-grabbing allegations, saying that she is only reclaiming her family estate, which belonged to her late father. She noted that her father obtained the land before he was murdered in a separate land-related conflict in 1980.

Owori, who is a renowned fashion designer, businesswoman, and political lobbyist, added that over the past four decades, various individuals have been using the land without legitimate claims. She added that in recent years encroachers have erected illegal structures and acquired fraudulent land titles for plots 143-146 Busia Road and plots 28-30 Kaytandi Road).

She pointed to Miteshi Doshi, a local investor, who has acquired a portion of the disputed land, alleging that he had taken deliberate actions to mislead other occupants and accelerated construction efforts under tight security.

In her pursuit of “justice”, Owori wrote multiple letters to the Ministry of Land and Tororo district officials registering her grievances against the alleged encroachers. She implored them to intervene and facilitate a resolution to the matter to address the ongoing dispute.

“The purpose of this letter therefore is to register my grievances and request your esteemed office to intervene with a view of sorting out the issues amicably. ”One of the letters addressed to the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Lands reads in part.

Based on the content of these letters, the Resident District Commissioner recently initiated a meeting with the involved parties to mediate and resolve the disputes. However, the individual accused of encroachment declined to participate in the meeting.

In a separate interview, Miteshi countered Owori’s narrative, questioning her sudden interest in the land after 40 years. He asserts that the land changed hands several times before he acquired it. Miteshi also added that Owori intends to exploit her supposed proximity to influential figures in government to unjustly seize his land.

He further accused her of labeling him as a foreigner in an attempt to garner sympathy from the local community. “I am a Ugandan as well, with a deep-rooted family history in this region. Our family has longstanding ties to this area. She is aware of this, as my father was her teacher back in the day. She’s resorting to playing the ‘Muyindi’ card to manipulate the local authorities. I won’t allow this to happen,” Miteshi said.

Despite both sides asserting ownership, neither has presented concrete evidence to support their claims regarding the disputed property. When asked about the ownership documents, Owori noted that she didn’t have them where she was. Miteshi also said that he had a personal emergency involving his wife’s medical condition and couldn’t readily avail the documents.

Nonetheless, he expressed a commitment to eventually share the proof of ownership at a later time. He also challenged Owori to produce any documentation demonstrating her ownership of the land.

Nixon Owere, the Tororo Resident District Commissioner, noted that upon receiving the complaint, he attempted to facilitate a resolution between the conflicting parties through mediation in his office. However, certain individuals involved in the dispute declined the mediation process and instead advised Owori to pursue legal action in court.

“I received a formal complaint and initiated communication with the concerned parties. This case is indeed unique, and I was keen on examining the evidence of ownership had mediation progressed. Unfortunately, the circumstances prevented the mediation from taking place under my purview. It’s challenging to ascertain the truth at this point. Given that both parties are now seeking legal recourse, the truth will eventually come to light in the courtroom,” Owere explained.

Evelyn Nyachwo, the LC I Chairperson of Agururu B2,  a longstanding resident of the area and whose residence borders the contested land, stepped in to shed light on the ownership intricacies of the disputed land. Nyachwo said that there is documented evidence supporting the claim that Owori’s father had indeed submitted an application for the land through the area land committee, which had subsequently granted approval.

However, she added a crucial detail to the story: the land was initially granted under a renewable lease agreement. Yet, due to lapses in the subsequent renewals, the ownership underwent changes over time.

In addition to the contested 6.5-acre land, Owori is also implicated in a separate land dispute involving 100 acres of land in Nyakesi “E” village within the Nyagole sub-county, Tororo District. Owori, however, maintains that the land originally belonged to her grandfather, who subsequently passed ownership to her father.

“Over the past years, I’ve engaged in negotiations with various claimants and occupants of that land. Many have expressed willingness to settle for financial compensation. Through these negotiations, I’ve managed to acquire 30 acres out of the total 100,” she revealed.

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