Land grabbing is no longer something new in Uganda. For many years now, many people have been forcefully removed from their land. Some compensated and others left in the middle of nowhere with nothing. Families have been displaced and abandoned, children have dropped out of school leading to early marriages, people have committed suicide and others have been beaten and killed in the process.
This week has been another week of cries, bloodshed, death and lamentations from the local communities of Bukinda, Kyangwali sub-county in Kikuube district western Uganda- a new district, and it should as well be known that
Bukinda comprises of over 28 villages.
It is a tough week, since the second Eviction merged after the visit of Minister Moses Ali in Kyangwali. It's on record that he called for a meeting at Kasonga, Kyangwali refugees camp that aimed that giving and implementing new orders on the second Eviction on the people (nationals) in Bukinda.
He later moved to Bukinda and gave residents three(3 days) to have left the place to the intended gazetted places where they are providing nationals with (land owners) one hectare of land in the open, rocky place around river Nkusi.
After the order, the week has been one of tears, bloodshed and death since many people have been arrested by security organs and toured, others over five by now have been killed in cold blood as others are nursing wounds in nearby hospitals of Ngurwe, Kituti health center IV. Houses have been demolished, properties destroyed, gardens put on fire as others have no more access to their gardens even when there children and them selves are starving.
The the communities have resorted to killing each other since the land demarcation/serving isn't proper and transparent.
Just a brief background of the 1st eviction and how it began
In 1966, Bunyoro kingdom leased out 50 square miles of land to the government of Uganda to set up the Kyangwali refugee settlement Camp for the Banyarwanda refugees. The area where the refugees were settled had settlements and gardens in the neighborhood belonging to the indigenous communities who were national. Both the nationals and refugees settled peacefully with the refugees buying food from the indigenous people until 1998 when the Prime minister came to fix boundaries of the settlement and the community.
According to the demarcation done by Technology Consult of Makerere headed by one Nathan Batungi in 1998, the sizes of land where as follows, 91 sq. Kms to the settlement, 36 sq km to the community of Bukinda and 7 sq kms to Katikara community. There was no conflict as per that demarcation between the community and the refugees and the government.
In 2013 the Office of Prime Minister (OPM) started claiming ownership of the land that belongs to the nationals after major General Oketta making a report that the land was a refugees camp land nationals just encroached on it. "2013 Oketta Report" which as well recommended forceful eviction.
On 20 August 2013, over 60,000 residents were terrorized. The people of Bukinda were brutally and violently evicted from their land by police and the UPDF under the directive of Jean Aliba the then RDC of Hoima district, Bafaki Charles the Principle settlement officer OPM, Solomon Osokon the then Region desk officer (RDO), Mugenyi David, the camp commandant Kyaka, the then DPC Hoima Kasangaki Augustine.
The community members were given an ultimatum of three hours to vacate the land amidst beatings and shootings from over 300 police and army officials. People’s houses were demolished, gardens destroyed and at least 27 people lost their lives women and children inclusive.
As a result, people fled to different areas including the neighboring Kagadi district. communities were displaced, misery, disillusionment and frustration filled the communities. People who were not on this land by 1966 (regardless of whether your parents were on the land) were ordered to return to their indigenous communities for example a Mukiga to Kabale a Mukonzo to Kasese. The villages were surrounded by police and the army, people were ‘packed’ up in army trucks and ruthlessly ‘poured’ out like sand in different locations under the command of RDC, Ambrose.
Since then, these communities have not had peace even after the minister of Relief, Disaster preparedness and Refugees, Hilary Onek ordered the refugees to be evacuated from the Nationals land following a directive from the prime minister.
People where being forced to register as refugees by giving them refugee cards. To be allocated land in one of the three village, one has to be registered as a refugee and this was done at gunpoint (soldiers go surround a village and all residents where forced to register as refugees.
The families later sued government, claiming to have lived with refugees since the 1960s when the refugee resettlement was started.
On 27 April 2015, Justice Simon Byabakama, who was the then Masindi Resident Judge, ordered the boundaries of the contested land to be resurveyed to ascertain whether the land claimed by the evicted families is within the resettlement scheme.
A joint survey report was submitted to court.
During the hearing of the case, families were allowed back on the land.
Hon. Daniel Muheirwe ( Buhaguzi County) member of Parliament presented the petition to Parliament on 19 September 2018, said the land hosting Kyangwali refugee settlement was donated by the Bunyoro kingdom in 1950 to host Rwandan refugees.
Where in 1998, government demarcated boundaries for the 91 square-km piece of land and the boundaries have been respected by the local communities. "I wonder why government plans to extend the boundaries of Kyangwali refugee settlement by annexing 28 villages in Kasonga Parish,” said Muheirwe in his petition.
As a result, on 20 September 2018, Parliament directed the Office of the Prime Minister to immediately halt the proposed expansion of Kyangwali refugee settlement until the contested issues are resolved. Parliament has tasked the Committee to assess the problem and report back to the House. The Committee also visited Bunyoro Kingdom authorities to ascertain the size and boundaries of the land, which was allocated to host Rwandese refugees in the 1950s.
The evicted people where from 28 villages in Kasonga parish.
On Friday 16th November 2018, the people of Bukinda occupied the premises of the Resident District Commissioner (RDC) of Hoima demanding that the promise of restoring their land that was earlier made by the president be fulfilled. The RDC instead ordered them to vacate his premises on Monday 19th November 2018 after they had been there for four nights or else they would face the wrath of the powerful!
With nowhere to go since they were chased off their land and their homes broken, they decided to walk to the President who promised them protection and restoration of their land. Behold they could not go beyond Kiboga district as the police intercepted them.
The Return of Bafaki
The Bafaki tales never cease! Just when the people of Kyangwali are starting to settle in and have some peaceful nights he appeared in their land again.
On 27th November 2018, he appeared with several police and army officers in Bukinda- Kyangwali sub county. He assured the residents that they will not succeed in the pursuit of their land. This happened after the speaker of Parliament, Rt. Hon Rebecca Kadaga ordered the Kyangwali Land evictions to stop after the community members presented their petition to her.
This was not the first time Bafaki tried to grab land from communities. Early (2018) he was arrested by the Commission of land inquiry after he was accused of using his position as Principle settlement officer in the office of the prime minister to extend boundaries of a refugee camp into land that belonged to Tooro Prime Minister, Stephen Irumba. In addition he again appeared before the commission for the "Kyangwali land evictions" which he was ordered to stop immediately but unfortunately he went ahead to defy these orders.