“Structured Mediation as a mechanism of resolving Property disputes”
In Kihande village on the outskirts of Masindi town, a wrangle erupted over land. It dragged on for a couple of years; bitterness sank so deep that it lead to a murder in the family.
“My husband was chasing me away with my children. I told him that I will not be separated from my children,” narrates Zaituni Kabakidi, that decision sealed the fate of Muherya, one of her sons. He was waylaid and shot at close range while returning from evening prayers at a mosque in 2006.
Kabakidi does not know her actual age, she never went to school. She cannot even tell the year in which got married. All she knows is that she was married off young to Sulaiman Byenkya around the time of Uganda’s independence (1962), and they had 11 children. She has cultivated the same land since.
In 2003, Kabakidi’s polygamous husband who was living on a separate piece of land with his new wife showed up a Kabakidi’s home to chase her and their children. One progressive son stood in the way, defending the mother and his siblings. His father hatched a plan to get rid of him and sell the land.
The dispute was well known to the entire village. Complaints had been filed with the police. In 2006, Byenkya hired a gunman to trail his son on his daily route from the mosque. He was shot in the stomach and head, killing him instantly. “He died down there near the well,” Kabakidi says, pointing to the swamp in the valley below their home, her eyes staring into space. A manhunt soon followed for a father fleeing his own son’s funeral. He was arrested in Kigumba, charged, tried and convicted for the murder of his son.
For such a heinous crime, Kabakidi’s husband was released after serving only 4 years in jail. Instead of being remorseful, he only came back to finish the job. He tried to sell the land again and this time he even bought padlocks and locked up the late son’s house. He gave death threats to the rest of the children who are mainly girls.
UGANET came in to mediate when the villagers had witnessed enough of Kabakidi’s suffering. According to Nicholas Kirahwa, the Chairman LC 1 Kihande their Local Council court had sat many times in the past but failed to resolve the dispute. “What UGANET did differently was to a call mediation meeting that was attended by everyone on the village. Unlike in the past when I would sit with only my committee, many villagers gave testimonies supporting Kabakidi,” he says.
A resolution was made stopping Byenkya from selling the land. It was agreed that he returns to his home on different piece of land leaving the matrimonial home to Kabakidi and her children.
the legal officer for Masindi who handled the case, Kabakidi was brought to her office by a Community Watchdog. Community Watchdogs were identified and trained by UGANET to work as volunteers in villages identifying property rights violations for women and girl’s.
Complex as the case may have seemed, Kabanyoro took it head on. “When the community came for the mediation meeting, I decided to teach. I taught them about the in-heritance rights of women and girls and people asked many questions,” she recalls.
Byenkya was saying that his daughters had no share of the land. “They should go and get married, he would say,” adds Kabanyoro. After an entire day of deliberations the meeting agreedthat Kabakidi and her daughters who were being chased off the land had a right to stay. A memorandum was drafted and signed by Byenkya, his family and witnesses.
What seemed like an impossible task was well accomplished. The fear of displacement no longer hangs over Kabakidi’s home.