By: Joyce Babirye

The Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, Eng. Hillary Onek, with the Minister of State for Bunyoro Affairs, Hon. Jennifer Namuyangu held a meeting with the leaders of Kikuube District to discuss ways of solving the land dispute between the alleged land owners and the people who had been evicted from Bukinda Parish, Kyangwali district.  The meeting took place on 2nd march, 2022.   About 250 people had peached camp at the offices of Kikuube RDC for more than one week.

Eng. Onek assured the district leaders and other stakeholders that Government is the rightful owner of the land and the Office of the Prime Minister has the land tittle for the land that is currently used for hosting the refugees. He said that government is fully aware that in many places, people usually take advantage and encroach on its land. He also informed the leaders that in many parts of Uganda, Kingdoms and individuals have always offered land to settle refugees, but when peace returns in their countries of origin the refugees will leave, and the land will revert to the former owners. He gave an example of Northern Uganda where Uganda hosts the biggest number of refugees in the country in settlements like Bidi bidi, Mvempi and others.

Hon. Onek during the meeting on evicted persons

“In this case, the Omukama of Bunyoro offered land to the Ugandan Government on 20th April, 1960. This land is surrounded by Lake Albert, River Nguse on the other side, Bugoma Forest Reserve on the other side and Kabwoya – Kyangwali Road on the other. The land that the encroachers are claiming to be theirs falls within the boundaries. The masqueraders pretending to be land owners, have encroached on land close to R. Nguse and L. Albert, these are within the boundary of the refugee settlement. Most of the encroachers are from the neighboring sub counties of Mpefu and Ruganshari in current Kagadi district.” he said.

Government Officials including Policeattending the meeting on persons camped at RDC’s office

The people being evicted were being threatened by Kyeeya Valley Farmers Enterprises LTD according to the RDC Amlon Tumusime . They were resettled by government after they were evicted from Mpokya Forest Reserve. Eng. Onek narrated the history of the land in Kikuube and Kyangwali and the different conflicts that have been arising over the land due to political opportunists that incite the people. He said that in 2012, there were conflicts over the same land, in 2014, 2015 , and finally in 2016, the President directed the Prime Minister to find a lasting solution to the land wrangles in Kyangwali.

In April, 2019, UGX 6.2 Bn was approved to resettle the encroachers. All the landless people were allocated 2 ½ acres per household. Government through the Office of the Prime Minister gave the invaders money and food that could last them for at least three months while they plant their own. They were told to go back to where they came from.

In 2020, the then head of the National Emergency Coordination and Operation Center (NECOC) Brig. Gen. Oluka led a team of Government officials to demarcate eight square miles of land into 2 ½ acres to be given to each family. 10,000 people who claimed to be landless are already settled on the land they received from government.

Later officials from the Ministry of Lands and the  Development Response to Displacement Impact Project (DRDIP) returned to demarcate land for schools, health center, roads, police post and a market. Unfortunately, the team was chased away by the people.  About 9 fake land tittles had been created on the government land, the Ministry of Lands was supposed to destroy these land tittles.

The Minister of State for Bunyoro Affairs, Hon. Jennifer Kakyama Namuyangu reiterated governments’ commitment in finding a lasting solution to the land wrangles. She said that the Prime Minister, Robinah Nabbanja is going to seek an appointment for the leaders to interact with the President. “We as government promise to provide all the necessary social services to make the people comfortable where they are settled. “she said. The delay in provision of services was partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic since 2019, and also  lack of cooperation from the leaders who incite people against government programs. OPM will request the UN to provide temporary structures or tents for the school, the health center and the police post while the government through DRDIP puts up the permanent structures.

“If people are not settled, they will miss out on the funds for the Parish Development Model.’ She added. Hon. Namuyangu told the leaders that Government has a duty to take care of all Ugandans. She encouraged the leaders to talk to the people that were camped at the RDCs office to calm down and have trust in government to find a lasting solution to the problem.

Eng. Onek clarified that “there must be a court order for anybody to evict people that government resettled on the land.” The RDC proposed that the people who were denied land during the resettlement should also be considered. Eng. Onek appealed to the public to protect civil servants and other people who tell the truth and protect government land.

The meeting was attended by the Resident District Commissioner (RDC) Mr. Imlan Tumusiime, the LC V Chairperson, Peter Banura, the Albertine Regional Police Commander Vincent Mwesigye, technical staff from the Office of the Prime Minister and Kikuube District. The meeting took place in the council hall at the District Headquarters.