Wednesday January 1 2014

Hoima councillors barred from debating refugee land evictions

A resident vacates the land under the watch of a policeman in Bukinda village.

A resident vacates the land under the watch of a policeman in Bukinda village. PHOTO BY FRANCIS MUGERWA. 

By Francis Mugerwa


A motion by Hoima District councillors protesting the alleged irregular evictions of an estimated 20,000 people from Bukinda village in Kyangwali Sub-county has been blocked.
Thousands of people were evicted from Bukinda village in September 2013 by officials from the Office of the Prime Minister on grounds that they had illegally settled and encroached on Kyangwali Refugee Camp land.

Council, which convened at Kolping Gardens in Hoima Town on Monday, was blocked by the speaker, Mr Nathan Isongoma Kitwe, to debate a motion that was moved by Mr George Byabashaija, the Kyangwali Sub-county councillor.

“In the last council session, we resolved that the RDC (Ms Jeane Kaliba) presents a detailed report about the evictions. She has not presented to us the report. The evicted people have spent over two months at the sub-county offices and are suffering,” Byabashaija said.

The Hoima District chairman, Mr George Bagonza, said debating the evictions had been overtaken by events. “Central government instituted a commission of inquiry into the evictions. The committee is headed by Maj Oketta. It will be unnatural for this council to take a decision on a matter that is under investigation by a competent and technical inquiry” Bagonza said. He said councillors should give the benefit of doubt to the committee investigating the matter and cease pulling strings in the interest of harmony within the district.

The chairperson of the district production committee, Mr Mugenyi Mulindambura, said evictions in the district can be a source of insecurity if not adequately handled by council.

The evictions

Government is currently resettling Congolese refugees who were displaced from their homes following fighting that erupted in Eastern DRC in July. The refugees are being moved from Bubukwanga transit centre in Bundibugyo District to Hoima District. An estimated 20,000 people have been evicted from a piece of land which is under dispute between the Kyangwali refugee camp and the residents. The refugee camp has a piece of land covering about 126 square kilometers. Local leaders contend that the evicted residents have lived in the area since time immemorial but Kyangwali refugee camp officials contend that residents illegally encroached on the land belonging to the resettlement scheme and agreed to vacate the area after they were sensitised.