1,000 families face eviction

A woman at a graveyard in the disputed land in Watembu Village, Buliisa District. Photo/ANDREW MUGATI

What you need to know:

  • This comes after court pronounced businessman Francis Kaahwa the rightful owner of the contested piece of land.

More than 1,000 families in Butiaba Town Council, Buliisa District, are facing eviction following a court ruling in favour of businessman Francis Kaahwa.
On January 19, the Masindi Magistrate Court, presided over by Justice Deogratius Ssejemba ruled that the 2,000-acre piece of land that stretches through the villages of Watembo and Booma in Butiaba Town Council rightfully belongs to Mr Kaahwa.

The residents, however, accuse Mr Kaahwa of illegally acquiring the land title.
Mr Deo Ntakimanye, the chairperson of Booma Village, said they will not accept to be evicted from their ancestral land where they have stayed since the 1960s.
“We request for government intervention in this issue because some of us (residents) gave part of the land to President Museveni to build army barracks and the remaining part is being grabbed by one Francis Kaahwa through court,” Mr Ntakimanye said.

 Mr Simon Byenkya Musiimo, a resident, said after donating land to the government in 2003, President Museveni in 2006 again visited the area and boundaries were opened between the community and barracks.
“We were surprised when we went to court and the ruling was made in his favour, he [Kaahwa] has no land title of the disputed land,” he said.
Mr Musiimo said they will appeal against the judgment, if government does not intervene and halt the eviction.
Mr Kaahwa said all those claiming the land are not the rightful owners and those who are not happy with the court decision should make an appeal in court because it is their constitutional right.

In 2014, residents of the two villages filed a suit in the Masindi Magistrate Court challenging Kaahwa’s ownership of the disputed land. Last month’s ruling, however, left the fate of the occupants uncertain.
Mr Gilbert Okumu, 79, a resident of Wantembu Village, who has lived in the area for more than 50 years, said they  have nowhere to go.
“This land belongs to us, I have been on this land since 1966, I can’t leave this land because some of us have buried our parents and children on the same land, if they tell us to leave, where do they want us to go,” he asked.

Ms Alisa Pacudaga , 86, said: “I have nowhere to go, I have buried my husband here. I can’t go back to my parents’ home with my grandchildren and leave my husband’s grave here, let the government come to our rescue.” 
Ms Pacudaga said her grandfather, the late Daudi Cwinya-ai, was born in 1917 on the same land and died in 2011 and he has never told them that the land belonged to someone else.
President Museveni while in Bunyoro for the commissioning of oil roads last week, tasked the Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja to intervene in the escalating land grabbing issues in the region.