The Minister of Lands, Ms Beti Olive Kamya, has halted the planned eviction of more than 10,000 locals from a 12,737 acre piece of land in Ndoi Village, Kitwaara Sub-county in Kiryandongo District.
Ms Kamya made the declaration during a meeting with the affected persons in Nyamitete in Mutunda Sub-county in Kiryandongo on Friday.
The land in contention, which is divided into six ranches, was given to three companies in 2017 by President Museveni to pave way for large scale farming.
The companies include Kiryandongo Sugar Factory, Ajilis Partners, a US company and Great Season.
However, Ms Kamya observed that while compensation was done by the companies, some residents have yet to receive their payment.
She also noted that eviction laws were also disregarded according to the minister.
“I therefore halt any further evictions on this land until we hold a meeting with the two companies, with representatives of the affected persons,” Ms Kamya said.
In an interview with this newspaper on Friday, the area LC1 chairperson, Mr Nicholas Okanga, said four people have lost their lives over the contested land.
“People approach us offering to pay between Shs200,000 and Shs100,000 as compensation and ordered us to leave homes at gun point,” Mr Okanga told Daily Monitor.
According to the residents, President Museveni allowed them to settle on the land in 2012.
Mr Patrick Kihuumuro, a resident, said they have written several letters to the Office of the President and other relevant authorities but they have received no positive response.
“We wanted the lease offers for the two companies nullified so that the land is reverted back to their owners or to compel the investor to fully compensate affected people,” he said.
Mr Alex Tumusiime, another resident, alleged that he was forcefully dragged to the bush at gun point and forced to sign for Shs2m, instead of Shs78m compensation.
Mr Wilson Tugume, the Kiryandongo Sub-county chairman, attributed the problem to improper eviction and poor compensation.
However, in an interview with Daily Monitor on Friday, Kiryandongo Resident District Commissioner Peter Debele, said the land belongs to government but the residents were encroaching on it.
He also said the three companies are only compensating for the crops grown on the land but not houses.
Mr Stella Akiteng, the Kitwaara sub-county councillor, accused the Kiryandongo Residents District Commissioner and police of conniving with the companies to take the land.
On July 17, 2017, President Museveni wrote a letter directing the three companies to find a lasting solution so that the matter is solved amicably, but this did not happen.
In 2019, the locals too petitioned the land probe team led by Catherine Bamugemereire, who interfaced with the residents of Kiryandongo District.
Justice Bamugemereire said her commission had received information indicating that there are people, secretly processing land titles of government land in Kiryandongo without authorisation from the landlords.
The Land Act 1998 recognises four categories of land tenure systems, including customary, freehold, mailo and leasehold. It states that all Uganda citizens owning land under customary tenure may acquire a certificate of ownership in a manner prescribed by Parliament.
Judicial officers have proposed that soldiers be barred from carrying out evictions in the country. They also recommend that the role of police should be limited to observing evictions in addition to keeping law and order during lawful evictions.