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Minister Muhoozi, MPs Clash Over Luzira Prisons Relocation

Minister Muhoozi presenting a statement on Luzira relocation

Gen. David Muhoozi, the Minister of State for Internal Affairs has clashed with MPs over the impending relocation of Luzira prisions.

Minister Muhoozi defended the proposal to relocate Luzira Prisons to pave way for the construction of a conference, saying the investor promised to invest US$249 Million (Shs934Bn) in the relocation exercise, a move that will present Government with an opportunity of acquiring better infrastructure that can enable Uganda Prisons Service to effectively carry out custody, rehabilitation and reformation of offenders, at the investor’s own cost.

“Luzira Prisons land which is very prime, can be released and secured for investment or for the other options indicated above. Modern investment on the current Prison land would lead to job creation for Ugandans, foreign exchange earnings, increased tax base, and would foster economic growth and development. This is in line with the country’s policy framework of poverty reduction through investment promotion,” said Muhoozi.

“Uganda Prisons Service will benefit from such development other than continuous holding onto this constrained space while staff and prisoners live in deplorable conditions. Alternatively, retention and improvement of Luzira Prison in its current location or retention of the land for non-custodial purposes accompanied with relocation of the prison at government cost, are also options albeit with heavy cost implications. To improve the welfare of staff and prisoners, a more spacious place be identified to construct modern Prison infrastructure that supports security, safety and rehabilitation of offenders and wellbeing of staff,” added Minister Muhoozi.

The Minister also defended the relocation of Luzira Group of Prisons, highlighting that Luzira was the first Prisons set up in Uganda by the Colonial Government in the 1920s, and by then, Uganda’s population was estimated at 3,071,608 persons and Luzira prisoners’ holding capacity was 1,923 prisoners, but the facility is now holding 8,790 prisoners, hence an excess of 6,867.

“Luzira Group of Prisons is approximately 260 acres, strategically located in Luzira, Nakawa Division, Kampala Capital City Authority, and a prime urban area, along the shores of Lake Victoria with excellent scenery. It sits next to the railway line connecting Kampala to Lake Victoria, which is Kampala’s only inland harbor at Portbell. The principal consideration at the time, was security as Luzira could only be accessed from one point. However, currently, with the mentioned developments and constraints of space and implied high security risks, this can no longer justify its continued existence in the present location, said Minister Muhoozi.

“Prisoners can be kept anywhere in Uganda, provided they have access to Courts of law, hospitals, and prisons visits by relatives. The transport network in and around Kampala metropolitan area has tremendously improved, and customized security vehicles can easily be acquired to secure prisoners in transit to access justice and other services. Cheaper land can easily be identified. Modern infrastructure would then be constructed to accommodate most of the major activities currently being handled at Luzira. This will not only solve the congestion problem, but will also offer better humane conditions, rehabilitation and friendly facilities,” added General Muhoozi.

However, MPs opposed the relocation.

Speaker Among led MPs in questioning the proposal to relocate Luzira Prison citing several deals in which Government has given out land to investors only for the said investors to fail to develop these pieces of land, with Among asking Government to unveil the identity of the said investor. Speaker cited land deals like Shimoni, Naguru and Nsambya land whose fate has turned out disastrous.

“Unfortunately, the Minister hasn’t told us who the investor is. My presumption is that by the time someone goes to prison, the person isn’t going for luxury, where you are saying the land is small and we need to expand, it isn’t about luxury, it is about the land for the people of Uganda and who is that investor?” remarked Among.

Asuman Basalirwa (Bugiri Municipality) said that the relocation of Luzira Prisons is land grabbing being disguised as investing, saying that the company being fronted by Government to take over Luzira Land is indebted and has been blacklisted by the World Bank.

“But of fundamental point is the company that is being reported to construct this facility. That company has been blacklisted by the World Bank, that company RVR is debt burdened, and it is the company being fronted. We shouldn’t allow land grabbing being disguised as investing in Luzira. Where you want to take Luzira is where you should take that hotel because that place also needs development,” said Basalirwa.

Basalirwa also expressed shock at the proposal by Gov’t to expand prison facilities in Uganda at the time the country should be planning for stability and law and order to minimize prisoners’ population.

“I am surprised that Government is planning to expand prison facilities, I am very surprised that part of relocation is intended to create more space for prisoners, at the time when the country is supposed to be planning for stability, law and order to minimize prisoners, but on the contrary, we are planning for expansion. There is a reason that prison is there, I have been to Luzira as a political prisoner and those who have been in prison will understand that even location of prison is psychological and it also impacts on prisoners, actually those of us who have been to prison, we prefer being to Luzira than elsewhere.” said Basalirwa.

Elijah Okupa (Kasilo County) said, “You have seen from this letter, Luzira Prison is 260 acres, the letter requesting for the land is for a five-star hotel and conference center. Does it need 260acres? Why don’t you give them 2-3 acres?”

Eric Musana (Buyaga East) said: “For Luzira prisons land, let it be a preserve of government, why can’t we get land elsewhere if we are interested in creating five-star hotels and shopping malls?”

Suubi Kinyamatama (Rakai District) said the deal to relocate Luzira prisons is a scam because this has happened before when Government lost Shimoni School and Naguru land

Loy Katali (Jinja Distirct) said that 260 acres of land is too huge to give an investor.

“An acre in Luzira could go for a billion shilling, my proposal is that they can sell off a few acres and reconstruct new prison structures,” he said.

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