The Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development has intervened in a land wrangle between Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) and residents of Kimengo Sub-county in Masindi District.
More than 2,000 residents from Bungucoda, Nyakarongo, Kiryana, Ijwamba and Kokoitwa villages were in November 2019 forcibly evicted from the land measuring approximately 60 square miles that UIA claims ownership.
The residents were given an ultimatum of few hours to vacate the land.
The eviction was effected by police officers backed by the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) commanded by the ex-Masindi Resident District Commissioner (RDC), Mr Godfrey Nyakahuma.
Mr Nyakahuma says he also acted on the orders from Finance, Planning and Economic Development Minister, Mr Matia Kasaija.
During the eviction exercise, homes were demolished while crop gardens razed to pave way for redevelopment purportedly by investors.
Reports say UIA purchased the contested land from Bunyoro Growers’ Union in 2005 before leasing it out to four companies including Mena Food Limited, Soul Agro Business, Critical Mass Limited and Afro CAI Company Limited.
The controversy reached its peak when Afro CAI Company Limited and Soul Agro Business attempted to fence off the land in November last year.
This drew protests from residents some of whom had occupied the contested land for more than 15 years. Several others had lived on the land long before Bunyoro Growers’ Union sold it to UIA.
Eighteen of the residents who were opposed to the brutal eviction were arrested and detained at Masindi central police station.
But Lands Minister, Ms Betty Kamya, has halted any kind of eviction on the land in contention cautioning security officials against effecting evictions in the absence of a court order.
“A committee will be instituted to establish the rightful owner of the land and investigate circumstances under which people were evicted from it”, she says.
The Masindi District LC 5 chairman, Mr Cosmas Byaruhanga, says that district leaders were never consulted before the residents were evicted.
“Residents who were occupying the land before UIA bought it in 2005 should have been compensated before being evicted”.
Ms Justine Tushabe, one of the residents who were forcibly evicted from the contested piece of land wants justice to prevail.
“All those who were behind our brutal eviction should be penalised accordingly because they took the law into their hands. We lost our household property and crops to the brutal people who did not follow the law,” she says.