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Toro elders petition land probe over land grabbing

By Geoffrey Mutegeki

Added 12th May 2017 02:14 PM

A group of 10 people, led by MP Alex Ruhunda delivered the petition to the commission

Toro elders petition land probe over land grabbing

(L-R) Toro elders Christopher Busingye, Patrick Rubongoya and Alex Ruhunda appear before the Land Commission of Inquiry. Photo by Maria Wamala

A group of 10 people, led by MP Alex Ruhunda delivered the petition to the commission

The people of Toro under, Isaazi Ly'Abantu Bakuru Batooro, have petitioned the Commission on Land Inquiry in Uganda, over the continued cases of land grabbing and lawlessness in land management in the Toro region.

The six page petition was presented by Alex Ruhunda, the MP Fort Portal Municipality on behalf of Prof Edward Rugumayo, the chairperson of the Isaazi Ly'Abantu Bakuru Batooro.

A group of 10 people, led by Ruhunda delivered the petition to the commission chairperson Justice Catherine Bamugemereire on Thursday.

In the petition, they decried the increased forceful occupancy and use of privately owned land by people who sometimes claim to be having endorsement from State House.

"The region continues to witness extreme cases of impunity where persons claiming support government and formations of the military have invaded some pieces of land and destroyed property and threatened owners," reads the petition.

In their petition they highlighted the forceful occupancy of land described as Block 86 Plot 2 LRV 3106 Folio 19 at Mpara, Kyaka in Kyegegwa district.

"The invaders have destroyed property worth billions of shillings and efforts by the land owner to seek redress from the Office of the Prime Minister and other authorities have all been in vain," Ruhunda said.

In other areas like Bufunjo, Butunduzi, Kasaba Kagoorra and Kanyegaramire in Kyenjojo district and Kasule, Kakabara, Mapara and Hapuyo in Kyegegwa district private individual land owners continue complaining about cases of unknown immigrant cattle keepers forcefully grazing their cows on their lands.

UWA faulted

In Kicwamba, Harugongo, Hakibale and Kijura sub counties, over 60 people allege that Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) evicted and grabbed their land.

"These people were displaced by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) insurgency in the 1990's, but when they returned they found UWA had extended the boundaries and grabbed the land," said, Chris Businge, the secretary of Isaazi.

The petitioners also decried the continued illegal and violent sale and encroachment on public land in the region.

Some of the public land that has been encroached on includes Kyaka I Refugee settlement and Rubona stock farm among others.

It is alleged that government officials especially from OPM have allocated themselves land under the guise of settling refugees yet they are regular Ugandans.

Regarding grabbing Rubona stock farm, Ruhunda revealed that there was a ploy by some technical people to kill the farm and grab it.

"They are doing all they can to make the farm look irrelevant to the locals so that they can take it over," Ruhunda said.

The farm has been encroached on by locals and leaders and the cattle is said to have been stolen.

"Schools have not been spared. An individual processed a land title for Buhinga Primary School and wants to take the land. Many schools and health centres are facing the same problem of encroachers," Ruhunda said.

Militarisation of land management

Police and the Army have also been cited for their continued involvement in extra-legal cases of land occupancy and evictions. In what the petitioners termed as militarization of the land management process, the claim that Police and the Army have guided illegal actions protecting the land grabbers and illegal occupants.

"They at times threaten to shoot and kill the victims. At times people get arrested for protesting these illegalities," Businge said.

Patrick Rubongoya, the spokesperson of Isaazi, challenged the commission to pronounce itself on the Toro Kingdom land in the districts of Kasese and Bundibugyo.

He said that the insistence on ownership of this land in these areas continues to rekindle the ethnic tensions and resentments in the region.

Call for investigations

Isaazi Ly'Abantu Bakuru Batooro has asked the commission to investigate all the vices of forceful occupancy and privately owned land and bring to justice all the public officials UWA and other persons involved.

"Investigate the reported vice of marauding cattle herders who with impunity, are reported to be involved in forceful occupancy or use of public and private land in the region."

They also challenged the commission to investigate the Queen Mother, Best Kemigisa, on the cases of extra-legal land grabbing and evictions.

"Investigate the land grabbing in guise of offering land to investors following the controversial lease transaction of crater lakes in Kabarole district."

In her response, Justice Bamugemereire applauded the people of Toro for coming before the commission and stating the injustices facing them.

"We are going to call upon you to provide us with proposals on how we can handle some of these challenges. I'm so happy how you have managed to condense all issues in your petition," Bamugemereire said.

She called upon all other Ugandans with land issues to address them to the commission.

The commission was set up by President Museveni to carry out an inquiry in the land sector.

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