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Families Stranded as Soroti University Evicts Encroachers

Controversy over the ownership of the land stems from a donation of more than 460 acres of land to Soroti University by Teso College Aloet. But residents in the adjacent village accused the University of annexing an additional 110 acres to the chunk that was originally donated.
More than 80 residents are now homeless as Soroti University started evicting person's illegally occupying part of its land in Soroti district.

The group comprises of 11 families that were found to be encroaching on land belonging to Soroti University at Apuuton village, Arapai Sub County.

Controversy over the ownership of the land stems from a donation of more than 460 acres of land to Soroti University by Teso College Aloet. But residents in the adjacent village accused the University of annexing an additional 110 acres to the chunk that was originally donated.

The two sides have been embroiled in a court battle which ended two weeks ago when High Court Judge David Batema ordered 15 households to vacate the disputed land upon the conviction that they were occupying the land illegally. Four of the families had opted for an out of court settlement with the university.

Prior to the court ruling, a boundary opening exercise directed by Lands minister Betty Amongi in the wake of renewed hostility between residents and Soroti University over land ownership found that the 11 families were illegally occupying the land in question.

Juma Hassan Nyene, the University spokesperson says the two decisions exonerated the university paving way for forceful evictions that started on Thursday. He says the University compensated the four families that accepted to vacate the land without going to court.  He added that the group that resisted an earlier proposal by the University to resettle did not qualify for compensation.

East Kyoga Regional Police Spokesperson Michael Odongo says the eviction was conducted by the court bailiffs in the presence of the Uganda Police.

Francis Okodu, one of the affected residents also says they are now stranded with nowhere to relocate to. Okodu said some of the families had occupied the land for over 50-years. Some of them held it as their ancestral land.

George Otim, a father of 10 who has lived on the land for 53 years says he has nowhere to take his family. Otim lost acres of garden crops during the eviction leaving him landless and with no food. 

The university displaced more than 300 families during its initial attempt to open boundaries on the disputed land in 2015. The move sparked renewed controversy when a group of court bailiffs demolished a number of houses sitting on the land of question displacing families.

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