‘Armed’ men occupy research land in Mbarara
Posted Saturday, January 19 2013 at 02:00
Herdsmen, who have encroached on land belonging to National Agricultural Research Organisation in Kihumuro-Ruharo, Mbarara District, pose a threat to research species, Mbarara Zonal Agriculture Research Development Institute has said.
The institute runs the organisation.
Dr David Balikowa, the institute’s director, said the land was allocated to the Regional Banana Germplasma project which is funded by Biodiversity International.
He said if it is interfered with, donors might be forced to stop funding the research project.
“These herdsmen are many. They have no toilet facilities, they defecate in bushes, a condition that is likely to make our species like cows contract diseases,” Dr Balikowa added.
He said early this month, a group of people demolished one of the gates to the land and began clearing it.
“The next thing we saw was a group of herdsmen settling there with their cows. They have constructed a kraal and a semi permanent house,” Mr Balikowa said on Wednesday.
He added: “People who are clearing this land are being guarded by armed men in army uniform. We do not know who they are and how they came, as owners of this land.”
Mr Balikowa said he had used all avenues, including the Lands Commission and the Lands ministry to evict the occupants but in vain.
“We have informed police, the RDC and other authorities and anytime we are moving to push these herdsmen and their cows away.”
The 2nd Division Commander, Brig. Patrick Kankiriho, on Thursday said he was not aware of the development.
“No, I am not aware of those people. Let them be arrested. I am going to call my IO (Intelligence Officer) right now to liaise with police to arrest them,” Brig. Kankiriho said.
When the Saturday Monitor visited the area with Dr Balikowa and other officials from the institute, at least 30 cows were grazing on the land.
About five people were guarding the cows but this newspaper did not see guns and army uniforms.
Other four people were clearing the land with pangas and hoes.
“We cannot talk to you, only our bosses who brought us here can talk to you,” said one of the herdsmen.
He, however, declined to reveal his names and who their bosses are.
However, the Resident District Commissioner, Mr Clement Kandole, who was told of the development by the director, said it should not cause alarm.