Kiruhura land row: Where there’s a will, there’s a war

Mr Moses Karuhanga (left) and Mr Nicholas Kahangire, both grandsons of the late Perez Kanyamunyu, at a section of the disputed land in Kiruhura District recently.  PHOTOS/COURTESY

What you need to know:

  • Florence Kifamaisho, the widow of James Kifamaisho, accuses the family of her brother-in-law, the late Perez Kanyamunyu, of trying to evict her on a square mile of land she has lived on since August 1965.

A 72-year-old widow has accused the police, elected leaders and government functionaries of denying her justice in a long-standing land wrangle with her in-laws.
Florence Kifamaisho, the widow of James Kifamaisho, who was a cattle keeper in Bunonko Village, Kikatsi Sub-county, Nyabushozi County, Kiruhura District, accuses the family of the late Perez Kanyamunyu of trying to evict her on a square mile of land she has lived on since August 1965.  

“I have lost a number of cows. They (my in-laws) have burnt my workers’ houses, destroyed the valley dams I had built on the land, broken the fences, and destroyed my banana plantations—cutting down my matooke as they wish. They threaten to kill me,” Ms Kifamaisho told Sunday Monitor in a telephone interview. 
Ms Kifamaisho says another attack was launched on her farm this past week, Monday, leaving a number of houses burnt. She says her in-laws began attacking her in June 2021, just after the second Covid-19-induced nationwide lockdown had been declared. 

“I reported a case at Kikatsi police post (SD 09/11/06/21) but the police has not helped me. I gave up on the district [leaders] because when I went to the [Kiruhura] Resident District Commissioner (Mr Aminadabu Muhindo) and the district chairperson, I was chased away,” she claims, adding: “When I went to the LC1 chairperson, he wrote a letter inviting the Kanyamunyu family for a meeting but they refused to attend it. I have given up on reporting to the authorities because no one listens to me. They don’t want to listen to old people.”

How they got the land
It was on April 1, 1965, when the Ministry of Animal Industry, Game and Fisheries resolved to allocate ranches to different persons, companies and co-operatives under the Ankole Masaka Ranching Scheme. 
James Kifamaisho and his brother Perez Kanyamunyu were jointly allocated Ranch No. 11, a five-square mile piece of land in then Mbarara District (present-day Kiruhura District).

Kifamaisho’s son, Mr Abel Tumuheirwe, says his uncle—Kanyamunyu—died in 1967, two years after the brothers had received the ranch. 
“My father lived on the ranch with his brother’s children. In 1983, my cousins asked my father for money, saying they wanted to process a title for the ranch. My father gave them Shs990,000. He reasoned that since he had more than 600 cows on the ranch, he should pay the money,” Mr Tumuheirwe says.

He adds that after taking the money, his cousins never processed the land title. “They kept on telling him the ongoing [civil] war was delaying the process. Then, in 1990, they started chasing my father’s tenants off the ranch. My father went to the Ministry of Lands and lodged a complaint. Mbarara District land board met both our families and unanimously declared that the ranch belongs to two people and should be divided equally between them,” he says.

In 1990, using the Presidential Notice No. 182 of 1990, the government restructured the ranches, and took three square-miles of Ranch no. 11. The Kifamaisho and Kanyamunyu families remained with two square-miles out of the original five square-miles.
“The land board said each family should get one square-mile. The Kanyamunyu family rejected the decision, and threatened to sue my father. Meanwhile, we began developing our square-mile by putting up banana plantations, planting trees, clearing the land and setting up valley dams. In 2004, my father died, and they began harassing my mother,” Mr Tumuheirwe says.

Kanyamunyus speak out
On March 16, 2022, Dhabangi & Company Advocates, acting on behalf of Hannington Nowe Kanyamunyu, wrote to Ms Kifamaisho asking her to entirely vacate Ranch 11 with all her structures, livestock, agents and workers. 

Nowe, a son of the late Kanyamunyu and one of the administrators of his estate, told Sunday Monitor by phone that his family has decided to remain silent on the matter.
“We have decided not to take our family disagreements to [news] papers, so, I will not help you there. Let them write whatever they want; I am not ready to take my family issues into [news] papers. That is a family issue,” he says. 

Julius Kanyamunyu, a grandson of Perez Kanyamunyu, was less economical with information. But only just.
“The claims [that we are trying to defraud the Kafamaisho family] are not true. But we are actually in court, so I am not at liberty to discuss it,” he offered, adding: “But, I can give you a statement that indeed it is not true. We own the land. We hold the title [for two square-miles] to that effect and for now that is all I can say.”

Ms Florence Kifamaisho, the widow of the late James Kifamaisho, at her home in Kiruhura District recently. 


Petition to President 
Mr Tumuheirwe accuses the Kanyamunyu brothers and their sons of settling 10 Karimajongs on their square-mile in June 2021.

“Those Karimajong came with spears and arrows, and other people. They came with 138 cows, forcefully took our dams, cut our trees and banana plantations,” he says, adding: “The cows they brought on our land were sick and they infected our cows. A number of our cows died. When we reported the case to police, we were just given a reference number and the case was recorded as criminal trespass.”
In 2018, Ms Kifamaisho met President Museveni and appealed to him for help. The President instructed the State House legal officer, Flora Kiconco, and the Lands minister to address the matter. 
Ms Kifamaisho says she was not helped.

“The President told Ms Kiconco to save us and tell the other family to leave our land and return to their square-mile. He promised to sort them out once they left our land. Ms Kiconco came here and conducted a series of meetings with both families and then, surprisingly, concluded that I was the one encroaching on the other people’s land,” Ms Kifamaisho says.
She adds: “She instructed them to give me only 300 acres of land so that I should vacate my late husband’s land. I told her I do not want the 300 acres because the square-mile was mine.”
She claims Ms Kiconco instructed her “to stop disturbing people”—particularly the media—with her issues. 

She adds: “She has blocked me from seeing the President. I am a sick old woman and now I do not even have peace. Why am I suffering at this age, in my country?” 
Ms Kiconco concedes she met both families on numerous occasions, but denies preventing Ms Kifamaisho from seeing the President.

“I do not fix the President’s appointments. That falls under the powers of the principal private secretary. I held many meetings with those two families with the view of reconciling them,” she said, adding: “When they failed to agree, I advised the aggrieved party to seek redress from court. I briefed the President accordingly. If she (Ms Kifamaisho) is saying I am forcing her out of her land, that is absolutely not true.  I cannot force a position on any of the parties.”

Compensation issues
When the government restructured the ranching scheme and took three miles off Ranch 11, all beneficiaries of the Ankole Masaka Ranching Scheme sued the Attorney General in Civil Suite Number 103 of 2010 and won. In the February 13, 2013 judgment, Justice Rubby Aweri Opio awarded the plaintiffs damages and costs amounting to Shs37b.
Mr Tumuheirwe claims the ministry has only been compensating the Kanyamunyu family on Ranch 11, ignoring his family.

He adds: “Madam Kiconco sent me to the minister and I spent an entire year in and out of his office. It was only on March 25 this year that [State Lands] Minister Sam Mayanja wrote a letter to the RDC of Kiruhura District, directing him to remove all trespassers (herdsmen and cows) on our land, help us get our land title, and visit the locus in contention in 30 days.”

In the same letter, a copy of which Sunday Monitor has seen, Mr Mayanja requests the Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development to furnish him with the current status of compensations of Ranch 11B payments, which had been halted in January 2019.
Mr Tumuheirwe claims the Kanyamunyu family is still receiving the compensation.

Background

The Ankole Masaka Ranching Scheme is located in Mbarara, Kiruhura, Masaka, Rakai, Sembabule and Lyantonde districts. This area receives unreliable rainfall and the dry seasons are longer than the wet seasons. Bahima pastoralists are the beneficiaries of the scheme. Work on the scheme began in 1960 when Rinderpest killed more than 90 percent of the animals owned by the Bahima.

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