Residents, minister lock horns over Kyalubanga forest land

Some of the residents at the Kyalubanga Forest Reserve whose property was destroyed by a rival group on October 22. PHOTO/DAN WANDERA

What you need to know:

  • A section of the displaced households that had been resettled at Kyalubanga Forest Reserve are currently unsafe and are under attack by fellow residents. 

Authorities in Nakasongola District have rejected a recent directive by the State Minister for Lands, Mr Sam Mayanja, to disband the committee tasked with the distribution of  Kyalubanga Forest land to  more than 2,000 displaced households.

The leaders from the four affected sub-counties and the district executive claim that Mr Mayanja’s directive was issued in bad faith. 

The leaders said they are now witnessing a new wave of insecurity at the resettled areas as a result of Minister Mayanja’s directive that was probably misinterpreted by a section of the population and carried out without consultation of the district security team and the local leaders.

Mr Livingstone Mwesigye, the Wabinyonyi Sub-county chairperson, said the recent fights, looting of property and burning of houses at forest reserve land is a sign of a deteriorating security situation that should be quickly addressed.

“The resettled households are not at the forest land by their own wish but got displaced by the floods and remained homeless for more than a year. Any new directive that concerns their resettlement should be done after consultation with district leaders and the affected families. We cannot sit and watch when our people fight because of a directive from a minister who is peacefully settled at his home,” Mr Mwesigye said in an interview on Monday .

“Minister Mayanja should have weighed the implications of his directive and possibly first discussed it with the Nakasongola leaders and the district security before going public. We are now thrown into panic as different opposing groups fight and destroy property in the disguise of the message delivered by the minister on October 19,” he added.

Mr Sam Kigula, the Nakasongola District chairperson, said while the district respects and takes into account that the minister was probably responding to emerging concerns, his approach undermined all the previous efforts by the district leaders to resettle the displaced persons.

“The committee that the minister disbanded was established by the district council executive with a representation of four sub-county chairpersons, the Buruuli cultural leadership, youth and women, and district security, among other leaders who represent different interests. Such a committee cannot be dissolved without consulting the district leadership,” he said.

He further noted that when they received a complaint about the ongoing resettlement plan, a probe committee was set up and is yet to produce its report. 

“When President Museveni considered the degazetting process for Kyalubanga Forest Reserve, he did not only consider the 409 households that were occupying a section of the forest reserve land but looked at a wide picture of the landless people in Nakasongola. It is wrong for the State minister of Lands to water down the initiatives made by the leaders in Nakasongola District to resettle the landless households when we have the opportunity,” Mr Kigula said.

The 2021 Lake Kyoga floods displaced 306 households from Lwampanga Town Council and only 36 households have so far been resettled at the Kyalubanga Forest Reserve land.

“It is unfair for any leader to deny the displaced persons from Lwampanga the chance of getting a share of the Kyalubanga Forest land,” Ms Jamilah Nakiyimba, the Lwampanga Town Council vice chairperson, said.

She added that a section of the displaced households that had been resettled at Kyalubanga Forest Reserve are currently unsafe and are under attack by fellow residents. 

who claim that the Mr Mayanja interpreted the presidential directive in their favour and not any other displaced person in Nakasongola District. 

“Our leaders should stand firm and do what is appropriate for the people of Nakasongola,” she said.

But in an earlier interview with the Daily Monitor on October 26, Mr Mayanja clarified that his visit to Nakasongola where he addressed a stakeholder meeting on October 19 was premised on the failure by the district leaders to follow the presidential directive in the resettlement exercise at Kyalubanga Forest Reserve.

“The committee set up by the leadership in Nakasongola to allocate land at Kyalubanga Forest Reserve was not working in the interest of the beneficiary tenants but serving selfish interests. I disbanded the committee because they were conniving with land grabbers to oppress the rightful beneficiary tenants,” he said.

The Nakasongola District Security Committee on October 23 established a new police post at Kyalubanga Forest Reserve land to contain the insecurity caused by rival tenants that are fighting for land.

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