Angry wetland evictees in Jinja attacked and drove away a team of people surveying the land.
By Jackie Nambogga
A scuffle ensued at Loco village in Jinja municipality when angry residents who were evicted from a wetland in the area attacked and chased away a team of people who were surveying the land.
When the evictees learnt that the land they formerly occupied was being surveyed, they mobilized themselves and stormed the area armed with pangas, oars, sticks and stones. The attackers were forced off the land by environment police a few weeks ago.
Three of the purported surveyors fled upon catching sight of the advancing residents clearly armed with an arsenal of rudimentary implements.
The only one of the four surveyors was caught unaware and tasted the wrath of the furious attackers. However, after being roughed up, he managed to escape the jaws of death. The armed residents clearly intended to lynch him.
Immediately after the unidentified man’s escape, the locals mounted a determined search for the rest of the surveying group but with futile results. But they stumbled onto and confiscated one of the equipment the group was using for the surveying exercise.
The evictees accused Jinja Mayor Muhammad Baswale Kezaala and the town clerk Francis Barabanawe for deploying the surveyors at the site.
They accused the duo of intending to allocate the wetland to some Chinese and Asian investors whose names or companies they did not disclose.
“They evicted us from this place claiming we had encroached on a wetland. Why are they surveying it again? We are reliably informed that plans are underway to give it out to Chinese and Asian investors but we shall not allow,” one of the evictees firmly stated.
Jinja central division LC3 chairperson Mubarak Kirunda (in blue suit) addresses the evictees.
Hasifa Kibedi, whose three permanent houses at the place were destroyed during the eviction, said she remained desperately helpless with her eight children.
“During the eviction, all my investments were destroyed and households looted, including the utensils. I am now being accommodated by a well-wisher.”
The upset residents were later joined by the Jinja central division LC3 chairperson Mubarak Kirunda who hailed them for their teamwork.
Kirunda, who is accused of inciting residents to encroach on the wetland, told the evictees that the area was a former landing site and assured them that they would repossess it.
He accused the Mayor and town clerk of plotting to allocate the land to investors.
“My council passed a resolution to re-establish this place as a landing site and this is what we did. Stakeholders should cooperate to avoid bloodshed,” Kirunda said.
Kirunda later led the group to the office of the Jinja Resident District Commissioner (RDC) Judith Rwakishumba, where they camped for two hours demanding her intervention.
Rwakishumba regretted that the eviction exercise was conducted without her consent, adding that even the surveying was being done without her knowledge.
“I couldn’t have learnt of this if you had not petitioned my office but I am going to investigate and find out the identities of those surveyors and where they come from,” the RDC told the locals.
She told the group that she had written to the ministry of environment requesting to allow them [evictees] carry out their work in a distance of 200 metres from the lake.
She urged the residents to desist from politicizing the issue and ordered the Jinja district Police Commander, Jonathan Musinguzi to ensure that the place is cordoned off.
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