Land evictions create anxiety in Bunyoro
Posted Wednesday, October 16 2013 at 01:00
BULIISA/HOIMA- Sarah Nyanjura, 28, a resident of Bukinda village in Kyangwali Sub-county in Hoima District had planned to give birth at Kituuti Health Centre, about 14 kilometres away.
However, before she could set off to the health facility, residents of her village were reportedly directed to vacate the area.
Her husband, John Tumusiime, said her wife picked a few of the household essentials together with her three children and set off to seek refuge at Kyangwali Sub-county headquarters.
“We did not have an alternative piece of land where to relocate. We had lived on the land for more than nine years. We were shocked when we were told to leave the area,” Tumusiime says.
A few minutes after arriving at the sub-county, Nyanjura developed labour pains and gave birth to a baby girl on September 4. She is now unsure of her future and that of her baby and the other young ones.
She is among more than 20,000 residents who were evicted from a piece of land said to belong to Kyangwali refugee camp to pave way for the relocation of thousands of Congolese refugees displaced by civil war in eastern DRC in July.
The sub-county chairperson, Mr Omuhereza Mazirane, claims the land is owned by natives who have lived there since time immemorial.
However, investigations by this newspaper point to a possibility of the land having been donated by Bunyoro Kingdom to the government for settlement of refugees in the 1960s.
“Bunyoro Kingdom land board has given us land for the above scheme to be started as soon as possible. Otherwise, they will be at liberty to make the land available for any other scheme other than the refugee scheme. The only thing required now is your approval for the scheme so that the refugee officer posted to Bunyoro recently may go ahead with preparations,” Sr Nyabongo, a community development officer in the ministry of planning wrote to the permanent secretary in the Ministry of planning on February 10, 1996.
Kyangwali Sub-county has Kingfisher Oil Field which has attracted a rush for land acquisition in the area.
Last month, Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi instituted an inter ministerial committee led by the Disaster Preparedness minister Hillary Onek that visited the evicted residents and the refugees last month.
“During that meeting, I directed that nationals be reinstated from where they were evicted, after refugees have been relocated within the resettlement,” Mr Onek wrote to the Hoima RDC, Ms Jeane Kaliba, on September 26.
He said whereas he has been informed that the area sub-county chairperson has ordered nationals to return to Bukinda village, this is contrary to the understanding that the verification team will have to verify and ascertain bonafide occupants.
“The government position was that an orderly resettlement of the displaced citizens be done when refugees have been relocated for security reasons. The resettlement of nationals should be done under the framework of the verification committee to be headed by Maj Gen Oketta,” Mr Onek added in his letter.
Land grabbing worries
People in Bunyoro sub-region are becoming anxious over increasing cases of land grabbing. Indigenous communities in the Albertine Grabben, where oil firms are exploring for oil, have also repeatedly complained about the circumstances under which oil firms utilise their land.