Minister draws army into palm oil land fight

State minister for economic monitoring, Ms Beatrice Akello (standing) speaks during a meeting with Masaka City officials on November 10, 2022. PHOTO/WILSON KUTAMBA

What you need to know:

  • The land in question measures three square miles and is valued at Shs2 billion.

The state minister for Economic Monitoring, Ms Beatrice Akello, has asked the army to deploy soldiers on a disputed piece of land where the government plans to set up palm oil plantations. 

The land is in Nakiyaga and Birinzi villages in Bukakkata Sub- County, Masaka District.

Ms Akello said her investigations revealed that the project has been delayed because the area Member of Parliament, Mr Evans Kanyike, is using the cover of fighting for squatters to pursue his personal interests.

Government’s target is to get 4,000 hectares, mainly on the shores of Lake Victoria for the palm oil project. So far, 2,000 hectares have been secured.

The minister accused Mr Kanyike and a group of land brokers of inflating the number of squatters reported to be occupying the land to attract more compensation from the government.

“The government has already committed resources to this [palm oil] project because the available information indicates that landlords have been paid 25 percent of their money and we cannot seat back and watch as money is put to waste,” she said last week after inspecting part of the disputed land at Nakiyaga Village.

Ms Akello has since pitched camp in Masaka Sub-region with a team from the State House Anti-Corruption Unit to monitor various government projects.

Mr Ibrahim Ssekitto, the spokesperson of the Masaka-based Armoured Brigade, said the minister is yet to formally ask for the deployment.

Mr Saul Kityo, the focal person for the Masaka Oil Palm project, alleged that Mr Kanyike recently mobilised Buganda Caucus MPs, who visited the land and urged residents to oppose the project.

“Whenever there is a meeting, the MP ferries people from other areas to pose as sitting tenants,’’ he said.

The Bukakkata Sub-county chairperson, Mr Aloysius Jjuko, said the two villages where the contested piece of land is located have about 780 households.

Mr Serestino Kawele, one of the landlords, said: “We had agreed with squatters through our lawyers that they will be paid Shs600 million, but Mr Kanyike brought more people.” 

Mr Kanyike declined to comment on the matter.  “Don’t disturb me you media people,” the legislator said in a telephone interview on Saturday.

Land in question

The land in question measures three square miles and is valued at Shs2 billion.

It covers the sub-counties of Kyanamukaaka, Buwunga, Bukakkata, and Kyesiiga in Masaka District.