Fifty-one-year-old Nabakoza Susan has been on the verge of eviction from her house by her step children since the death of her husband in 2017. A resident of Bitabago, Rakai district, she has tried everything in her power to safeguard herself and her property but she still receives threats and insults from the children. Even with a written agreement, court ruling and family consensus giving her tenure of the land, she is still faced with frequent attacks from her step children who claim ownership of the land, garden and house in which she stays.
She tells her story with pained eyes, especially when she talks about her husband’s death, with whom they had been married for twenty-nine years and had one child.
In 1989 at twenty-three, Susan and her husband, Kayondo, held their customary wedding making her his second wife. His first wife had, two years prior, left along with their six children and had since remarried. Susan and her husband lived a fairly quiet life, she says, until he started falling sick all the time.
“My husband was sick for a very long time. I could not tell what he was suffering from even after we went to all the hospitals in this area. We went to Masaka, Kalisizo and eventually he was admitted in Kitovu hospital. when he saw that he was not getting any better, he called all his children and gave them each a piece of land which they would inherit when he was not here anymore. He had six older children from his first wife and we had one girl. When he died however, the children came here and told me to leave, claiming this was their land as well,” she narrates.
Three days after his passing, four of her step children came to her house demanding she get out and leave their father’s property.
“They had not been there when he was sick, none of them had come to visit or help out in the hospital. It was always me and my brother in law. But now they were here, telling me to get off their land. They said that since he had been buried here, it was their ancestral land. Some of them had already sold the land he had given them even before he had died.”
Susan sought redress from the Parish Office, where a meeting with the entire family. At this meeting, it was decided that the house and gardens were rightfully hers however, the children did not stop harassing her and claiming ownership of her property.
“They were bringing buyers to inspect the land and they would go to the garden and cut the matooke that I had planted. I later found out that their mother had left her husband and she wanted to come back here, that is why they do this so I can go away.”
To find a permanent solution, she reported the case to the sub county in Ddwaniro where she was declared her the rightful owner of this property, since she had all the necessary documentation supporting her claim. This did not stop the boys from coming after her, claiming her house as theirs.
With the help of her brother in law, she convened a family meeting in August 2017 to seek help and support from her husband’s relatives, at which she was recognized as the true owner of this property and her step children were chastised for their behavior. This however, did not stop them from randomly coming to her house to taunt and chase her away, causing her to feel that her life was in danger.
“I stay alone in this house,” she says, pointing to her two-roomed brick house.” My daughter is in Seeta where she studies from. I fear they can come here and do something to me because they have expressed that they do not want me here. I have nowhere else to go if I leave this place. It is my home, my husband and I built it together.”
Susan, like 43% of households in Uganda relies on subsistence farming for a living. Land is her only source of livelihood, survival and even dignity. Her quality of life as she has known it is greatly endangered by the constant threats made to her and her property. The Land Act was amended in 2004 to provide for the protection of spouses by giving them the right to security of occupancy on family land. The right extends to the residence, whether or not there is also land from which the spouse derives sustenance. This gives widows and widowers the right to use family land for residence and subsistence.