What you need to know:
- Government wants the land to serve as a pre-export quarantine ground, where animals can be vaccinated before they are exported.
- Challenges: Mr George Kabende, whom government entrusted as a caretaker of the land, said he has been fighting squatters for more than 20 years.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries has rekindled its earlier plan to repossess 242.541 acres of land at Makukulu Village in Kaliro Sub-county, Lyatonde District, which is currently occupied by more than 1,000 squatters.
Mr Bruce Turyatunga, the land desk officer at the Ministry of Agriculture, said the residents illegally occupied government land, which formerly housed a veterinary field station .
“We have engaged those people [squatters] for a long time and we have been waiting for the election season to end and we evict them,” he said in an interview on Monday.
The disputed land also accommodates New Hope Community Nursery and Primary School.
Mr Turyatunga said government wants the land to serve as a pre-export quarantine ground, where animals can be held in isolation for a specified period of time for veterinary observation, sampling, testing, and vaccination before they are exported.
“We have a plan to start exporting animals in bulk and we cannot do that unless we have such a facility. It must be isolated and securely fenced off for purposes of sufficient biosecurity and to avoid close contact with other animals outside the facility,” he said .
Mr Benon Musinguzi, a resident of Makukulu Village, said government should consider an alternative settlement plan instead of evicting them.
“We admit that we don’t own this land, but we have been here for more than 30 years. Let government consider settling us somewhere else or give us a small portion where we can live with our families,” he said
Mr Henry Mugasha, another resident, criticised government for closing their community school last year .
“We ask government not to punish innocent children because we don’t have any neighbouring school where they can go and acquire knowledge,” he said .
Mr Pius Wakabi Kasajja, the permanent secretary in the Agriculture ministry, first issued an eviction notice on April 26, 2020, and gave the squatters up to July 31, 2020, to vacate.
They, however, petitioned the Land Commission of Inquiry, which was led by Justice Catherine Bamugemereire, saying government was unlawfully planning to evict them.
They also alleged that some unscrupulous individuals were leasing out part of the land and not remitting the proceeds to the government.
Mr Sulait Asiimwe, the chairperson of Kaliiro Sub-county, said the squatters have become a security threat and need to be evicted.
Mr Asiimwe said some occupants migrated from Kasese and settled in the area while others came from the neigbouring Rwanda.
“Ever since they [squatters] settled on that land, insecurity has increased in this area and we will be happy if the government chases them away,” he told Daily Monitor in a telephone interview on Monday.
Mr George Kabende, whom government entrusted as a caretaker of the land, said he has been fighting squatters for more than 20 years. “I have been in local council courts trying my best to stop people from occupying this land illegally in vain . They [squatters] are being supported by local politicians for their selfish interests,” he said.