HOIMA. Parliament has halted the eviction of residents of Kyangwali Sub-county in Kikuube District, which was to pave way for the expansion of a refugee settlement there.
The residents have been living in fear of eviction and had appealed to their leaders to intervene.
But on September 20, the Clerk to Parliament, Mr John Bagonza Mugabi, wrote to the Prime Minister, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, and the chairperson of the Presidential Affairs Committee, informing them that the House had halted the eviction, pending the determination of land ownership in the affected area.
According to Mr Mugabi, on September 19, Buhaguzi County MP Daniel Muhairwe raised concern over the impending eviction of the residents bordering Kyangwali refugee settlement yet the alternative land given by government could not accommodate all of them.
“The Office of the Prime Minister was requested to halt the planned expansion of Kyangwali refugee settlement and to present a statement on the matter by September 25,” Mr Mugabi’s letter reads in part.
He added that the Presidential Affairs Committee was tasked to assess land ownership in Kyangwali and Kyaka refugee settlements and report back to the House.
According to Mr Muhairwe, the land hosting the Kyangwali refugee settlement was donated by the Bunyoro native government in 1950 to host Rwandan refugees.
He said in 1998, government demarcated boundaries for the 91 square-km piece of land and the boundaries have been respected by the local communities. He wondered why the government plans to extend the boundaries of Kyangwali refugee settlement by annexing 28 villages in Kasonga parish to the refugee settlement.
“Currently the wanainchi are being squeezed in only one acre per family, forced to relocate and given no compensation for the development on their land. We pray that we follow the 1998 survey and life continues,” Mr Muhairwe said.
On August, 20, 2013, residents were evicted by the army and police in Bukinda Parish to secure land for hosting Congolese refugees.
The families later sued government, claiming to have lived with refugees since the 1960s when the refugee resettlement scheme started.
On April 27, 2015, Justice Simon Byabakama, who was the then Masindi Resident Judge, ordered the boundaries of the contested land to be resurveyed to ascertain whether the land claimed by the evicted families is within the resettlement scheme. A joint survey report was submitted to court, which is yet to rule on the matter. During the hearing of the case, some families were allowed back on the land although about 800 families have been confined in internally displaced people’s camps to date.
In February 2016, President Museveni sent Dr Rugunda to Kyangwali Sub-county to meet the affected families.
He informed them that government would set up a team to verify and resettle families displaced from land around the refugee settlement camp.
“We would like to assure all those who were evicted, that they will be resettled in accordance with the law, following the verification exercise by the team which government is putting in place,” Dr Rugunda said.
Dr Rugunda’s trip followed a petition to President Museveni by Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom in January 2016.