Four families that Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) purportedly forced to vacate and demolish their houses in Kibiro Parish, Kigorobya Sub-county in Hoima District are demanding government to compensate them for their destroyed property to enable them recover from the losses they incurred.
The affected persons had either business establishments or residences between Kyabarangwa – the new site for evictees and Kibiro landing site’s major residential area near Kibiro hot springs.
Mr Tom Bakahuuna, a business man was forced to demolish his shop and abruptly transfer his merchandise to Kigorobya for safety when he was given a 12-hour ultimatum to quit the landing site.
Despite having lived there for nearly 30 years, Mr Bakahuuna was surprised to be notified that the landing site was illegal and had to close immediately.
He wonders how he will start a new life during this hard time marred with movement and fishing restrictions alongside evictions at various landing sites of Lake Albert attributed to the coronavirus pandemic outbreak and control measures.
Though the verbal eviction order was later rescinded in the evening, it could not reverse the damage and losses incurred. He says UPDF soldiers claimed to have mistaken the landing site for those listed for closure.
The Kibiro Village Chairman, Mr Godfrey Abigaba Bitagase, says the order reversal came after he pleaded with the army to spare the area inhabited by indigenous Bakibiro people.
Bakibiro is a small community in Kigorobya sub-county, Hoima district which is traditionally known as one of the Laker sub-divisions of the Banyoro people.
Mr. Bakahuuna estimates at least Shs2m as the sum needed to rebuild his shop and Shs200, 000 to transport back his merchandise and resume business.
Already affected by the two-month-lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Mr Bakahuuna who sires and looks after 15 children requests government to compensate them in respect of its constitutional mandate of upholding and promoting human rights by considering the legal procedures of eviction.
Mr Noah Kyalimpa who has been operating a bar and a shop, too, had his house demolished on May 22, 2020 in response to the military order to vacate.
“Here we are only the Bakibiro people on our ancestral land. I couldn’t imagine that the government could come out of the blue to evict us. We had been intimidated earlier before that we were to be evicted from here and rumours had it that a certain rich man had bought this land and wanted to establish a beach,” says Mr Kyalimpa.
These are some of the few landing sites that narrowly survived total demolition. There are many indigenous community members crying for help after remaining homeless and losing their property to the order to vacate illegal landing sites.
Mr Jackson Mugenyi Mulindambura, the district councillor for Kigorobya sub-county told this website that he was working to see compensation made for the innocent Bakibiro community members that were accidentally affected.
The demolition occurred a day after Sate Minister for Public Service, Mr David Karubanga, visited some of the already demolished landing sites, conceding finding irregularities in the exercise.
Speaking to the local media, Mr Karubanga pledged to present a report to the Prime Minister’s Office that among other things could recommend relief aid to the affected persons and re-agreeing on the sites that should be spared in the best interest of indigenous communities.
The army-manned evictions have been conducted during the coronavirus crisis against the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development’s directive to halt any kind of evictions until the lockdown aimed to curb the spread of the coronavirus is lifted.
The ministry said the directive was part of the interim land management guidelines to protect the rights and obligations of both the landlords and tenants on registered land in the country.
The implemented eviction plan was announced by Maj Gen Leopold Eric Kyanda, the chief of Staff in charge of Land Forces in the UPDF early May 2020.
The implementation was effected after the army officer held an urgent meeting with local leaders from Bunyoro region at Kolping Hotel in Hoima telling them that the exercise was aimed at controlling cross border movement that we posing a threat of COVID-19 and Ebola virus spread from the badly hit Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Mr Bashir Twesigye, the Executive Director of Civic Response on Environment and Development (CRED), describes the eviction of approximately 10,000 persons on the Lake Albert shores as blatantly illegal and challengeable before courts of law.
He says no eviction is expected unless sanctioned by court. The current eviction exercise was contrary to the laws of the Republic of Uganda; moreover during the lockdown moments over coronavirus pandemic.