More than 200,000 families settling on the 20 square miles of Semei Kakungulu land in Mbale District are demanding that the land be returned to the natives.
Kakungulu, a Buganda Kingdom chief, was a British agent whom the colonialists used to impose their rule in the eastern region.
The residents claim that the land was forcibly taken away from their ancestors by the colonial government and given to Kakungulu as a token of appreciation but without compensating the original owners.
In an interview with Daily Monitor, the residents said they want government to buy the land from Kakungulu’s descendants and have it returned to them.
Mr Jonadabu Keki, the chairperson of Namanyonyi Sub-county, said it’s time the government reconsiders handing over the land to rightful owners.
“The indigenous people were deprived of their right to own land. The colonial government forcibly allocated their land without compensating the owners,” Mr Keki, said.
Kakungulu died in 1928 and was buried a few metres away from the main Abayudaya Synagogue in Nabweya parish, Namanyonyi Sub-county in Mbale.
His grave remains one of the most visited tourist sites in the region.
Mr Robert Mudabo, a resident, said they do not know why the government is not serious with the issue.
“The British administrators or colonialists had no right to donate our ancestral land to their agent. This was unacceptable,” he said.
Mr Mudabo said they have been living on the land for long but they have no powers to survey it because the ownership is under Kakungulu.
“We cannot survey our land without buying from Kakungulu family. This is unfortunate,” he said.
The prime minister of Bamasaba Cultural Institution, Mr Francis Mashate, said failure by the government to hand over Kakungulu land to its indigenous people, has remained a painful experience they have lived with for many years.
“The rightful owners, who are the indigenous people are now referred to as squatters,” he said.
Mr Mashete said their repeated reminders to the government to resurrect a parliamentary resolution that was passed in 1962 endorsing the handover of Semei Kakungulu land to its rightful owners have yielded no fruit.
“We demand that Parliament resurrects the decision and put it in implementation or they use land fund to buy the land and allow the settlers to have their land,” he said.
Mr Stephen Muduku, who was the representative of Bugisu in the Constituent Assembly between 1960 and 61, said they discussed, passed and resolved that the Semei Kakungulu Estates was erroneously given away by the British government.
“This resolution was passed and it became law and the government was asked to see the possibilities of transferring Kakungulu land to its indigenous people,” he said.
The district chairperson, Mr Bernard Mujasi, said in 2007, President Museveni promised to intervene and have the land given back to rightful owners but nothing has been done.
“The president sent some people here 10 years back but since then, we have not seen any results,” he said.
Mr George Bagonza, a member of the Land Probe Committee, during their intervention last year said government should look through the matter and resolve it so that people can regain their land.
“The institution should come out strongly and see that this issue is solved because they are rational demands. These are fare demands and the government should look through them,” he said.
However, Kakungulu Estates manager, Ms Rachel Kakungulu, said: “Uganda is a capitalist economy and people are free to own land any in part of the country.”
Ms Kakungulu said whoever wants the land should buy it from the Kakungulu family.