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Bunyoro question: Give land to all occupants

By Vision Reporter

Added 17th August 2009 03:00 AM

There is a programme on WBS TV called “Issues at Hand” moderated by Peter Kibazo. The issue at hand in the media for the last two weeks has been the President’s letter on the settlement of Bunyoro issues.

There is a programme on WBS TV called “Issues at Hand” moderated by Peter Kibazo. The issue at hand in the media for the last two weeks has been the President’s letter on the settlement of Bunyoro issues.

By Moses Byaruhanga

There is a programme on WBS TV called “Issues at Hand” moderated by Peter Kibazo. The issue at hand in the media for the last two weeks has been the President’s letter on the settlement of Bunyoro issues.

Many have criticised the President, saying he is encouraging tribalism. Renowned political science professor, Muhamood Mamdani, was quoted to have said at the Mayanja memorial lecture that if implemented, the proposal of ring-fencing some political offices in Kibaale will create two societies in the country, the indigenous and the non-indigenous. Others have said that the President’s proposals were unconstitutional.

I have also read Nina Mbabazi’s article that appeared in the Sunday Monitor last week. I do appreciate her research on the history of both Bakiga and Banyoro. It is educative and her view that industrialisation will sort out the current issues of internal migration is correct, but we should handle today’s issues as we wait for industrialisation.

Let me first respond to those who say that the President’s proposal is unconstitutional. Article 32 (1) of the Constitutions states that “Notwithstanding anything in this constitution, the State shall take affirmative action in favour of groups marginalised on the basis of gender, age, disability or any other reason created by history, tradition or custom for the purpose of redressing imbalances which exist against them”.

Many of the commentators do agree that as a result of history, Bunyoro was punished by the colonial government for King Kabalega’s resistance against colonial penetration and take-over of Bunyoro. I will not go into the detail of injustices meted out against Banyoro. Pertinent among the injustices were depopulating the area, taking away part of its territory and land thereof, which were given to Baganda.

This was resisted by Banyoro through Nyangire resistance (resistance against Baganda chiefs in Bunyoro). There was partial settlement of the injustices through the referendum of 1964 where Buyaga and Bugangaizi counties voted to go back to Bunyoro.

I call it partial because while the territory of the above mentioned counties went back to Bunyoro, the land that the British donated to the Baganda landlords didn’t go back to the indigenous people.

They remained squatters on their land. Because of the depopulation of the area mentioned above, it was easy for governments to settle Bakiga in Kibaale both in 1965 and in 1992/3. The NRM Government has been buying back land titles from absentee landlords in Kibaale. Out of about 366 titles about 60 have been bought through the Uganda Land Commission.

The President’s proposal is that the land bought from the said landlords should be allocated to the tenants on it. There should be a systematic demarcation of the said land and this should extend to the whole of Bunyoro and not be limited to Kibaale alone. I disagree with those who say that during systematic demarcation land should be allocated to only Banyoro. The right thing is to allocate land to those occupying it currently irrespective of ones ethnicity, and whether one was settled on the land by government or one bought it as a kibanja. Bunyoro is multi ethnic. The struggle to attain land should not be reduced between Banyoro and Bakiga or any other ethnic group in Bunyoro.

Recently I went to Kapapi Parish in Hoima district. The majority of the people there are Alur. Myself a Munyoro I cannot go there and settle on the account that that land belongs to Bunyoro hence for Banyoro. I would have to buy it. We should, therefore, avoid tribalising land. Much as I advocate that land in Bunyoro should be allocated to the tenants on it, those who invaded forests should be removed and ordered to leave them for environmental protection.

Related to land is the need for affirmative action on economic emancipation of Bunyoro. People should be assisted to make use of the land and earn from it. They should stop selling land to earn a living. This only compounds the problem.

On the politics, the President proposed ring fencing certain political offices. It is this that has caused a lot of debate with some saying that the president is de-enfranchising the non Banyoro. The case for Kibaale is that the settlement there of Bakiga is party by government while others moved there on their own. The latter would not cause a lot of concern because that is happening every where in the country. So it is wrong to compare Ruhindi elected in Nakawa in Kampala with someone in Kibaale. Ruhindi was never settled in Kampala by the Government.

The issue then is the Government has settled people in their area who have with time taken over political offices.

In the case of Kibaale because of their history of Baganda chiefs this issue has become sensitive. It is seen as a repeat of history. It could even be subjective but we need to address it.

The President’s proposal is a win win. Let us create parliamentary constituencies where there are concentration of Bakiga and create more sub-counties so that the areas where Bakiga are dominant. The Bakiga will represent those areas in Parliament and the district council.

The same would happen in areas where Banyoro are a majority. Where then does the President’s proposal deny any group representation or de-enfranchise it?

After a talk show on Kfm last Saturday where I futured with Barnabas Tinkasimire and Henry Ford Mirima, the MP informed me that before he took over representation of Buyaga constituency, there was a proposal to divide Buyaga into two counties. One dominated by Bakiga comprising Muhororo, Bwikara, Mpeefu, Rugashari and a new sub county of Ruteete to be created out of Kagadi sub county.

The other Banyoro dominated constituency would be created out of the following sub counties; Kagadi after removal of Ruteete, Kagadi Town Council, Kyanaisoke, Mabaale and Kiryanga.

Tinkasimire supports this proposal which is not far from the President’s proposal. One would suggest the same for Bugangaizi where two constituencies can be created. In politics we must solve realities and even perceptions.

The writer is the special presidential assistant on Political Affairs

Bunyoro question: Give land to all occupants

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