Bakibiro split over land giveaway to migrants displaced by floods, evictions

A panorama of Kibiro landing site at Lake Albert (Mwitanzige) shoreline in Kigorobya Sub-county, Hoima District.

The Bakibiro, one of the lake sub-divisions of the Banyoro people have split ideologically over the giveaway of their ancestral land to migrants who started flocking Kibiro landing site of Lake Albert in April last year.

Most of them fled the military evictions and closure of more than 50 landing sites that the military said were illegal and facilitating illegal migration and possible spread of the deadly coronavirus that had just broken out in DR Congo alongside the Ebola virus outbreak that had persisted for nearly two years in the same neighbouring country.

Possibly because there was no resettlement plan for the victims, each person started moving on his own until he could settle where peace appeared to be.

Kyabarangwa fishing village which is part of Kibiro landing site looked conducive for the evictees of Kababwa, Bikunyu, Songagagi and Runga landing sites among others.

Their settlement was aided by the village leaders claiming that it was being done on compassionate ground since there was completely no organised plan of resettlement by the evictors.

The number of settlers increased with the increase of floods and until now there are more than 2,000 migrants settling on that land, according to Mr Gilbert Businge, the information officer for Kibiro landing site.

He acknowledges the ongoing misunderstanding between the migrants and the some indigenous Bakibiro people who fear losing their land permanently.

Audio: Businge on land giveaway (Runyoro/Rutooro)

Mr Hannington Sojo, a resident of Kacungiro told Kazi-njema News that they traditionally use that land for grazing goats and cows, firewood collection and source of herbal medicine.

He reveals that for now all that is no longer possible since it is occupied by strange persons.

Mr Sojo claims that his four goats have been stolen since they were of free range system.

He wants the Hoima district local government to intervene and have a comprehensive plan for the evicted persons or else communal clashes will occur.

Mr Sojo vows that he can only accept renting out that land and the income is used to benefit all the Bakibiro in an organised manner.

Audio: Sojo on land giveaway (Runyoro/Rutooro)
Squeezed migrants’ semi-permanent houses at Kyabarangwa fishing village, Kibiro landing site in Kigorobya Sub-county, Hoima District.

Mr Julius Kiiza, another native condemns the encroachment on their land with impunity as the government watches.

He claims he is reliably informed that the village leaders received a softener of Shs50,000 from each homestead ahead of allocating them a piece of land to construct a temporary house.

But to their surprise, many of the migrants have established semi-permanent houses meaning they will permanently occupy that land.

Audio: Kiiza on land giveaway (Runyoro/Rutooro)

Mr Kiiza wonders why the government has not bothered to respond to the floods and eviction disasters yet they carry lasting effects to the community in terms of dwindling security and economy.

However, Mr. Godfrey Bitagase Abigaba, the area chairman who is also a Mukibiro insists he could not deny refuge to hundreds of people evicted forcefully by the army and those rendered homeless by floods.

He said it was on humanitarian ground for any financial gains that they decided to host those Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) though their status has neither been recognised by government nor humanitarian agencies.

Mr Jackson Mugenyi Mulindambura, the district councillor for Kigorobya sub-county urges the people of Kibiro to adapt to coexistence.

He could easily reason out the possible escalation of land conflicts today and in future during his explanation, a factor that is worrying the Bakibiro.

Mr Fred Kabagambe Kaliisa, the chairperson for the Bakibiro says they are working to get a clear and legally acceptable modality of safeguarding the Bakibiro ancestral land.

Mr Kaliisa, who is also the Chairperson of the Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom Royal Commission and Presidential Advisor on Oil and Gas added that nobody or community has a right to invade with impunity any land owned communally.

However, he asks the Bakibiro to be calm.

Meanwhile, Mr Kadir Kirungi, the Hoima district chairman, has for a couple of times cut-off or ignored phone calls and a whatssap message from Kazi-njema News reporter seeking his comment on his electorates.

A man roofs a semi-permanent house at Kyabarangwa fishing village, Kibiro landing site in Kigorobya Sub-county, Hoima District.

A similar communal land security experience and fear is evident amongst the Banyabugoma community in Bugoma village, Kyangwali sub-county in Kikuube district and the Batyaba in Butyaba sub-county, Buliisa district.

After the 1962-64 floods, the Batyaba lost their ancestral land to migrant Congolese and until now, they remain the minority on their land, Butyaba.

They can be traced in small numbers at Kawaibanda area which the current floods have submerged forcing them off again.

Like previous floods, some of them have vacated the escarpment while others relocated to Wantembo near the marine military barracks.

Apart from the communal land allegedly encroached on, they could settle on the adjacent central government protected land but the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has heightened surveillance to prevent any form of encroachment on its land borders.

Mr Bashir Hangi, the UWA spokesperson confirmed that to Kazi-njema News last week acknowledging reception of numerous requests to surrender part of conservation land to the victims of floods in most low lying areas across the country.

While in Hoima in December last year, Uganda’s Prime Minister, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda said government was mooting a yet to be seen comprehensive resettlement plan for the flood victims.

The landing sites closed by the military on security and health grounds were reopened at the end of last year but it could not help since houses had been demolished and some of the sites were flooded aiding no source of livelihood.

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