John Akongere, one of the affected people, says they are struggling to recover their land. He explains that in 2014, the army burnt their houses on grounds that they were housing rebels. He says that it was until a year later that NFA confirmed that it had evicted them from the contested land.
More than 1000 people
evicted from Buvuma Forest reserve land in Buvuma island district are struggling
to make a new living.
The affected people were flushed from six villages
by the National Forestry Authority-NFA and Uganda People’s Defense Forces in 2014
for alleged encroachment on forest reserve land.
The affected people were residents of Kitiko, Nandala, Mpolwe, Bukiyindi and Nsese at Bugaya
Main Island. They claim that NFA burnt their houses into ashes, tortured them
leaving some of them with permanent injures while many others were imprisoned.
The evictees say they tried to reclaim
the land in 2018 after establishing from the lands ministry that the contested
land belongs to them, but UPDF pitched camp on the land to block them from
Some of the residents have never settled
while others stay in churches in the nearby villages. Our reporter visited Kasansa
village and found five distressed mothers abandoned by their husbands living with
over 20 children a temporary structure built using poles and dry banana leaves.
On the right side are two other cabins shared by different
families. The families resorted to the temporary shelter after being
chased by the army from the church where they had sought refuge. They were
reportedly asked to relocate to distant places from the contested land.
of the children look malnourished with swollen
stomach and faces. Jane Abalyogera, one of the residents, says they lack
clothes and bed sheets to cover their bodies while sleeping. She doesn’t blame her husband for running away from the
family, saying he narrowly survived death with serious injuries inflicted on
him by soldiers deployed to evict them.
//Cue in: “Okujja okwiririla batandika…
Cue out: …abandi ku bitanda”//
Monica Namabiro, a mother of four, says they lack food to eat
despite leaving plenty of crops in their gardens. She says the army ordered them not to harvest
any crops, saying whoever is caught picking food from the garden is arrested
and charged with trespass.
//Cue in: “Tweyideyira nze nayida…
Cue out: …ayidde atuyambe”//
group of residents have settled in a camp comprising of mud and wattle huts
about 1 kilometer away from Kasansa village. Martin
Bwiire, a father of nine is among the seven injured people in this camp. He complains
of chest and other body pain resulting from beatings.
He currently uses a stick to walk because his right ankle
joint was broken.
//Cue in: “Tulinga abatali bannauganda…
Cue out: …muno mwonna”//
60-year-old Saidah Naweesa can no longer walk because her
right leg was broken. Her husband, Bernard Mugoya sustained a broken back bone.
The coupled is being taken care of their son who chose to abandon work upon
realizing what had happened to his parents.
//Cue in: “Nga ndi mutuuze…
Cue out: …kati ndi awo”//
John Akongere, one of the affected people, says they are
struggling to recover their land. He explains that in 2014, the army burnt
their houses on grounds that they were housing rebels.
says that it was until a year later that NFA confirmed that it had evicted them
from the contested land.
//Cue in: “The situation started…
Cue out: …torturing people”//
constituted a committee led by Alfonse Wandera,
the custodian of the Catholic Church land in Buvuma District to investigate the
matter. According to Wandera, the contested land belongs to the Catholic
He says they have written a number of letters to NFA
requesting them to prove its claim on the land in vain. Wandera says petitioned
State House, which tasked the Lands Ministry to establish the rightful owner of
the land using the two maps presented by the complainants and NFA.
The complainant presented a map drawn in 1936 indicating that
the contested area was crown land. NFA presented a different map indicating it
was a forest reserve.
"The purpose of this communiqué is to request
your good office to certify a copy of this said map provided by the
petitioner…” A letter dated January 31, 2019, signed by Flora Kiconco, the
presidential private secretary on land matters indicates in parts.
In response, Joseph Kibande the commissioner of Land Registration
at Mukono Zonal Office confirmed that land measuring to 47.6508 hectares
belongs to the Mission of St Joseph Society of Mill Hill and was registered on
December 30, 1936, under instrument number 36103. It is under the custodianship
of Lugazi Diocese.
After failing to resolve the matter between NFA, UPDF and the
affected residents, the RDC wrote on behalf of the principal private secretary
to the President to the Executive Director, NFA and the Chief of Defense forces
on March 15th, 2019 asking them to intervene in the matter citing
the outcomes from the land search. Wandera says nothing is yielding
because soldiers continue chasing them for the land.
//cue in: “Ettaka lino…
Cue out: …Kugwa ne munyanja”//
Our reporter visited the contested land and found cattle
grazing on some crops. UPDF soldiers operate from a four bedroom house from
where they monitor the land. Andrew Malindi, the Mpolwe LC II chairperson wonders
when NFA and the army started grazing animal, saying he suspects there is someone
behind the move to take their land at no cost.
//Cue in: “Balina e kintu…
Cue out: …najja ku ground”//
Brig Gen Richard Karemire, the UPDF spokesperson dismissed claims
that soldiers occupy the disputed land.
He however, said some soldiers are attached to
“NFA has soldiers attached to it as part of the law
enforcement so whoever claims torture or any related complaint should approach
us,” he said.
Although Buvuma Resident District Commissioner-RDC, Agnes
Nabirye, says they are dialoguing with NFA. Benjamin Kamukama, the NFA Lake
Shore Manager, says they have established facts indicating that the contested
land belongs to the Authority.
“We already opened up our boundaries and what is left is
ensuring re-afforestation. They had actually accepted to vacate the place but
with the increasing pressure on land following the Vegetable Oil Development
Project-VODP acquisition of private land, many residents returned to encroach
on NFA land, some others did so after selling to VODP, eat the entire money and
found themselves with nowhere to live.” Kamukama notes.