Prime Minister Nabbanja intervenes in a refugee camp land conflict

KIKUUBE – Rt. Hon. Nabbanja Robinah,Prime Minister of Uganda has stopped the resettling of Congolese refugees on a disputed land in Bukinda parish, Kwangwali sub-county, Kikuube district.

Nabbanja who visited the disputed land together with Hon. Judith Nabakooba, the Minister of land, State Minister for Disaster and Preparedness, Easter Anyakuni, Fred Byamukama, State Minister for Works and Minister for Public Service, Mary Grace Mugasa found officials from her office constructing houses on the disputed land to settle part of 1,100 refugees who were recently received in Kyangwali refugees’ settlement area.

Kyangwali refugees’ settlement area was started in 1955 after the Bunyoro Kingdom leased the land to the then government.

The Prime Minister’s visit followed a petition from the area Women Member of Parliament (MP), Florence Natumanya demanding for her intervention into the continued suffering of the host communities who were allegedly evicted from their land by the Prime Minister’s Office in 2013.

In 2013, more than 60,000 residents who were accused of encroaching on Kyangwali refugee settlement camp land in the then Hoima district were evicted and left in the Internally Displaced Camps.

They were from 31 villages which included; Bukinda A and B, Bukinda 2, Kavule, Bwizibwera A and B, Kyeya A and B, Nyaruhanga, Kabirizi, Nyamigisa A and B and Katoma among others.

Nabbanja explained that in 2018, President Museveni stopped the utilization of the land until the dispute was settled but his directives were not respected.

Nabbanja who suspected that the officials started settling the refugees on the disputed land, when they heard that she was visiting the area to cover-up the evidence.

She halted the settling of the refugees on this land and ordered John Bosco Kyaligonza, the commandant at Kyangwali refugee’s settlement area to settle these refugees on another piece of land.

Several Ministers including the former Prime Minister, Ruhakana Rugunda have since 2014 attempted to resolve this dispute but failed and Nabbajja promised to settle these issues within one month.

The dispute on this land started after the Office of the Prime Minister and natives (host communities) started claiming the ownership of the same land measuring 35,000 acres.

It is alleged in the survey that was conducted in 1998, that the settlement area was given 91 square miles and the locals 36 square miles but the settlement management which is the Office of the Prime Minister have continued to encroach on community land and now the settlement has 142 square miles of land.

This challenge left thousands of local people (host communities) evicted and now many are living as internally displaced persons.

Several offices including Parliament, police and inter-ministerial verification committee comprised of officials from Ministry of Internal Affairs, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees and those from Ministry of Lands which was headed Maj.Gen. Julius Oketa made the reports and recommendation over this dispute but the residents (host commutates) rejected these reports claiming that the reports were biased.

As a result of the pressure, officials from the Office of the Prime Minister started resettling the evictees on land located in Kyeya giving each family 2.5 acres but the residents claim that the land is infertile and demanded to be taken to their land where they were evicted.

While addressing affected persons, Nabbanja promised to organize a meeting between the evictees and area leaders within two weeks so that they can meet the President to get a lasting solution to the problem.

Nabbajja also promised to follow the matter adding that people who will be found with land titles on refugee land, will be ordered to quit. She added that they are going to investigate and if they find that people were evicted illegally, officials behind the act will be punished adding local communities who will be found to have occupied the refugee land illegally will be ordered to go where they came from.

Judith Nabakooba, the Minister of Land called on the residents to remain calm adding that her ministry will soon organize the boundary opening exercise on disputed land.

She asked the Prime Minister Nabbanja, to allow them to carry out boundary opening of the land adding that, this exercise will end the standoff which has lasted for about 10 years.

“When we open boundaries, we shall be able to know the size of the land for the settlement, the land for the local and we shall be able to identify illegal land titles on this land,” she appealed.

Meanwhile, the Minister for disaster preparedness, Easter Anyakuni, said there is a need to first scrutinize all the reports that were done by different offices before taking decision on the matter.

“Honorable Prime Minister, I request that we should not make a final position on this issue, reports were made and recommendations which we should study thoroughly and thereafter we shall come back here with the right answer,” Easter Anyakuni advised.

The area leaders Florence Natumanya and Peter Banura Kikuube district boss commended the Prime Minister for her intervention, adding that several reports have been made and the President directed the Office of the Prime Minister to handle the matter but in vain.

They were optimistic that the intervention of Nabbanja will bring an end to this conflict and suffering of the host communities and they will be able to return to their land.

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