Tenants occupying Uganda Railways Corporation (URC) housing units in Gulu are protesting a move by corporation officials to resume collection of rent without a formal tenancy agreement.

This follows an operation to enforce the collection of rent arrears from sitting tenants on their estate located on Plot 22, Atwal Road in Upper Railways Quarter in Bardege-Layibi Division. 

At least 51 families are currently settled on the property and pay 40,000 Shillings monthly in rent for a unit consisting of a kitchen, main room, and a toilet. According to the Railways Corporation, the tenants have not paid rent since July 2021 and are now required to pay 1,444,000 Shillings each in arrears.

Florence Acan, the Chairperson of the sitting tenants says that URC officials stormed her residence on Thursday and demanded that she pay 1.44 million Shillings in rent arrears without any official demand notice. 

Acan noted that she was threatened with instant eviction if she failed to clear the money to which she managed to clear only 300,000 Shillings to save her house. However, she says no receipt or tenant agreement was issued to her and other tenants to sign on acknowledging payment and their legal occupation status.

According to Acan, whereas the officials are accusing them of refusing to pay rent, they had stopped paying rent to the accounts of URC since July 2013 after the estates of the corporation were put up for sale.

On July 18, 2013, the then Privatization Unit Director David Ssebabi, wrote to the sitting tenants on the estate among them Acan offering them opportunities to purchase housing units on the estate on Plot 22, Atwal Road. 

Acan particularly was offered 0.0334 hectares of the property for 32.5 million Shillings and was supposed to pay it within three months.

The property sales were part of a government’s program of Privatization and Divestiture under the Uganda Railways Corporation in which non-core assets were earmarked for sales as a source of funds to sustain the corporation’s operation. However, Acan who has lived in the property for two decades says she couldn’t raise the amount.

Kara Kennedy, another tenant who has lived in the housing unit for the last 20 years said the latest eviction threats have scared them since they couldn’t afford to purchase the property in 2013.

Kennedy said even though he managed to raise 1.4 million Shillings to clear up his rent arrears for the past three years, he is unsure if he will remain in the house since no receipt or a tenant agreement was issued to him.

Kevin Atim, another tenant accused URC staff of forcefully pulling her and her sick son out of the house on grounds that she hadn’t paid her rent arrears despite making commitments to pay in the past. Atim said her house was locked even after struggling to raise half of the money.

Charles Ijam, the In-charge of URC Gulu Station told Uganda Radio Network in an interview that the collection of the arrears was legitimately conducted after several notices were issued to the tenants in June 2023 and in January 2024.

He said the operation kicked off in all districts where URC has estates arguing that in Gulu city, it particularly targeted defiant tenant leaders who have been subletting railway properties and mobilizing others not to pay their rent.

According to Ijam, while URC charges only 40,000 shillings for the housing unit, some of those who had the units sublet them to other tenants and charge between 15,000 shillings to 200,000 shillings in rent without remitting a penny to URC.

Ijam dismissed allegations that URC had sold out some of the housing units to other new private tenants arguing that the government stopped the privatization process, and all properties were reverted to URC for management. URC currently owns residential properties and spaces on an estimated 28 acres of land in Gulu City alone.


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