President Yoweri Museveni has instructed the Ministry of lands to start a process to compensate the Omukama of Bunyoro Solomon Gafabusa Iguru for his land in Hoima and Kikuube districts, which was encroached on by settlers and developers.
The first land which is located in Rwengabi village, Kabwoya sub-county in Kikuube district, formally the traditional hunting ground of the Omukama measures 20.5 square miles, strategically located near Waraga, Nzizi, and Mputa oil wells. The other is a personal estate of the Omukama at Nyamirima estate measuring 100 hectares.
The ministry will thereafter, do a systematic demarcation, survey, and titling of privately-owned land in the two districts under the land fund to cater for landlords with large parcels of land so that the people who had encroached on their land are given rights of ownership.
State Minister for Lands Persis Namuganza says that the aforesaid districts have never benefited from the Land Fund that was established by the government to deal with land issues in the country especially, the question of absentee landlords. She was speaking during a meeting with the Omukama of Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom Solomon Gafabusa Iguru at the Kingdom palace on Saturday afternoon.
According to Namuganza, the president wants to settle land matters in Bunyoro specifically, the two districts where hundreds have been evicted. She said the process will partly address and resolve land conflicts that have persisted in the area between the squatters and landlords.
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Namuganza says that the reason for the boundary opening exercise is to make an inventory of people and property on the above land with intentions of finding a lasting solution and hand over rights to the people currently occupying the land. The exercise which will start on June 24, will identify the pieces of land in the presidential directive and later go on to other lands.
Andrew Byakutaga, the Prime Minister of Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom Speaking on behalf of the King, welcomed the government’s plan of compensating the landlords including the Omukama of Bunyoro so that the tenants can settle and have registered rights on such land.
Byakutaga says that most of the land that is going to be taken over by the government has critical cultural sites where the King and his subjects could go and perform cultural rituals, hunting expeditions, access medicinal plants among others that he says needs to be protected and preserved by the government.
He says the ancestral lands have been encroached on or occupied with limited access to it by the Kingdom and the King. He cited land in Kyangwali, Karuma, Kaiso Tonya, Chopelwor, and Nyamakere among others, which has been taken over by game parks and private developers.
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According to Byakutaga, Bunyoro has a unique historical land question that has resulted in tension, fights, bloodshed, and destruction of properties and requires special interventions from the government to resolve. He adds that the current government intervention will help fight the ever-escalating land conflicts in the Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom.
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Hoima district Woman Member of Parliament Harriet Mugenyi Businge commended the government for moving to settle the land question in the area that has led to the loss of lives and property, making Bibanja owners internally displaced in their areas.
Buhaguzi County MP legislator Daniel Muhairwe expressed optimism that people shall not be ‘evicted like dogs’ as a result of the exercise adding that the government should ensure that those evicted from their Bibanja unfairly are compensated duly.
Harriet Businge, the Hoima woman Member of Parliament said that the historical injustices have haunted the people of Bunyoro for decades and this is partly the reason why capital investments are limited in the region. Businge said that people have not yet been helped in registering their land due to the exorbitant costs involved, noting that the exercise comes in handy to address it.
Hoima district chairman Kadiri Kirungi expressed concern that some government initiatives are started but are normally left hanging with no conclusion.