Residents of four sub-counties in Kyegegwa district have petitioned the Leader of Opposition, Hon. Mathias Mpuuga questioning the process through which their land was allocated to refugees to government officials.
Led by their chairman, Daniel Nimpamya, the residents of Mpara, Kazinga, Rwentuha and Mugamba Sub- Counties on Monday presented their petition to LOP Mpuuga seeking an inquiry by parliament into the involvement of officials from the Office of the Prime Minister in what they described as improper and unlawful possession of their land.
“We are more than 5,000 people who are the victims of the illegal and improper possession of our land by the refugees in 2016, which exercise was surprisingly done and supervised by government officials, who kept a blind eye on people’s complaints, and what the law says regarding possession of land in Uganda,” said Nimpamya the Chairman of the victims.
In their petition to the LOP, Nimpamya says that they lawfully acquired their portions of land in accordance with the law and their occupation was uncontested for many years, until June 2016 when they were informed that they were living in a refugee settlement camp.
“We were later informed that Ugandans who were returnees from Tanzania and were living in Sango Bay were to be settled on the land. We tried to challenge the process, by engaging the relevant government offices like the office of the Prime Minister, but we received no help. As a result, we were forced to lose part of our land to the refugees, which left a lot of pain in our hearts,” Nimpamya said.
He reported that many of them who tried to resist were badly beaten and tortured and others were relegated into a financial crisis because they were using land as a means of production.
Nimpamya told LOP Mpuuga that they were compulsorily deprived of their land without due regard to their rights as legal and equitable owners and that they were neither compensated nor consulted on the settlement and distribution of the land.
“The process was done forcefully without the input of the original residents and the local leaders, and without proof from the government that our land was government land. We have discovered that the said land is not among the gazetted government land which makes the whole resettlement process suspicious,” he added.
In their petition, the complainants say that during the resettlement process, the new entrants were not given title deeds or any document to work as proof that they are the owners of the land and this has caused several conflicts between returnees (Ugandan refugees) and the original owners of the land putting the security of the area in jeopardy.
Haruna Mubangizi, a resident of the Rwentuha sub-county said that the exercise was characterized by the beating of people, unnecessary arrests, intimidations, destruction of people’s gardens, and sub-division of people’s farms among others.
Mubangizi said that he is now disabled because of the heavy beatings and torture meted on them by the police for resisting the possession of their Land.
“When the affected people lodged a complaint to the Uganda Land Commission, to get clarification on whether Kyaka 1 land is government land, the officers from the OPM led by Mr. Bafakyi the commissioner in charge of Land matters, and Mr. Lutaaya the Surveyor, failed to provide facts regarding the land, and also failed to present the copy of the gazette to the commission,” further reads the petition.
The petitioners asked that Parliament helps them to regain their land or compel the government to compensate them. They also seek parliament to investigate the matter through its committees, so that culprits are brought to book.
“After compensation, the government should provide land titles to the original residents and returnees to avoid future conflicts which might lead to shedding of blood,” Nimpamya prayed.
In his remarks, Leader of Opposition Hon. Mpuuga said that the petition speaks to a very big matter in this country regarding land and land politics.
“I can imagine all the time of this conflict, people have not effectively participated in the development. It is a matter of common knowledge that so many people under this regime have illegally amassed huge chunks of land, individuals owning square miles neither inherited nor bought with personal funds,” said Hon. Mpuuga in part.
He noted that parliament has over time received so many petitions over land conflicts.
“The powerful are using land conflicts to pit people against each other. Why do we have refugees in Uganda who are Ugandans? That is a question that we want this government to answer. Is there a Ugandan that has no origin and therefore they are rendered refugees in thousands…what happened to their land?” LOP Mpuuga asked.
He cited a need to make a trace of the people that have been rendered homeless through land grabbing.
“So, what if the government wanted to settle refugees…Ugandans from Tanzania…why didn’t government buy their land. I am aware that in the Ankole-Mawogola corridor, there are people that were given free land in square miles, up to now, those who were chased from their land have never been compensated,” Mpuuga noted.
The LOP assured the petitioners that their matter will be processed and that he was to relay it before the shadow cabinet and assign the Shadow Minister for Lands to take it to the floor of parliament.
“I hope parliament will be able to send a team on go”