Soldiers defy govt, continue guarding Kyankwanzi land
What you need to know:
State minister for Lands Sam Mayanja directed that more than 300 evictees return to their ancestral land but they were chased by soldiers guarding the land.
Soldiers camping at the disputed land in Kiyuni Parish, Gayaza Sub-county, Kyankwanzi District, have defied a ministerial directive to allow displaced residents to return to their bibanja (plots of land).
The soldiers, who are about 25, were reportedly deployed by Ms Patricia Alinda Nyakairima, a widow of former army commander and Internal Affairs minister Aronda Nyakairima, who claims ownership of the three square mile piece of land.
The affected villages are Kyerere East, Kiyuni, Birama, Kyakibenje, Butikiro, Dagaza and Kiyuni Central.
During a meeting with evictees and local leaders on March 2, State minister for Lands Sam Mayanja directed more than 300 evictees to return to their ancestral land and prepare for the planting season.
The victims were evicted from the disputed land early last year.
But during his visit to the area, Mr Mayanja ordered the Kyankwanzi Resident District Commissioner, Ms Sharon Ankunda, to ensure that whoever was illegally evicted returns.
“Using the powers entrusted to me by the President and the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, I direct and order you, the suffering people to go back to your land and prepare for the new planting season,” he said on March 2.
The minister claimed that the family of Ms Nyakairima gave her wrong information about the disputed land, portraying herself as the sole owner yet there were other landlords.
“I, therefore, stand here to declare the cancellation of all land titles the family of Gen Nyakairima holds,” he said.
However, some evictees who have attempted to return to their bibanja in the past couple of weeks, have faced the wrath of the soldiers deployed to guard the land.
Mr Leosan Ssebakunzi, the chairperson of Gayaza Sub-county, said ever since the minister’s visit, soldiers have been beating up people and chasing them away.
“In one of those scuffles, two women were hit by stray bullets as soldiers dispersed the residents and are still on treatment at both Ntwetwe Health Centre IV and Mulago National Referral
Hospital,” he said.
When the Daily Monitor contacted Ms Nyakairima on Wednesday, she declined to comment on the matter, saying: “Please call Minister Mayanja, he pretends to know more about that land than anyone else”.
But last year, Ms Nyakairima stated that her family rightfully acquired the land, adding that she was ready to defend it at all costs.
“This land belongs to me, nobody has authority over it, I acquired it legally,” she said.
The army spokesperson, Brig Felix Kulayigye, could not respond to our repeated calls from this reporter, but someone who called back using an office landline, said: “We are less concerned about those land issues in Kyankwanzi,” he said before hanging up.
Mr Mayanja said although his directive has not been implemented, he is confident that the matter will be resolved.
“I have met Brig Gen Henry Isoke [head of State House Anti-Corruption Unit] and Ms Milly Babalanda [Minister for Presidency] and agreed on methods to use to execute those orders,” Mr Mayanja said.
Speaking to residents and local leaders in Kiboga District on December 14, 2022, Ms Judith Nabakooba, the Lands minister, expressed concern that some powerful government officials are directly involved in land grabbing while others are doing it through “their well-connected agents”.
“Some have gone ahead to grab land that accommodates government institutions with the sole aim of hoodwinking the government to use the land fund to pay them. We have concrete information about this clandestine move and we will not allow it to happen,” the minister told a gathering at the district headquarters.
Ms Nabakooba said those fueling land conflicts and evicting tenants are enemies of the ruling NRM government.
Land has become a sticky issue in many districts in Uganda, where wealthy people with land titles are evicting poor tenants from their ancestral land. Usually, politicians use land evictions as a campaign tool to get votes during elections. It is on this basis that the government is pushing for land reforms which state officials say are aimed at curing land grabbing.