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Residents Return to Maruzi Ranch, Demand Compensation

Residents, who spoke to Uganda Radio Network on condition of anonymity for fear of security, said that they are still waiting for compensation since the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Fisheries assured them of compensation.
A resident rearing his animals in the Ranch, months after eviction. (Photo by Solomon Okabo)

Audio 2

More than 200 people from Ibuje and Akokoro sub-counties in Apac district have returned to Maruzi Ranch, six months after their eviction. Maruzi ranch, which covers the two sub-counties has been at the centre of conflicts between the local community and government for the last six years.  

In 2017, government evicted hundreds of residents that illegally settled on the land after securing a court order. However, the settlers later turned and started claiming compensation from the government for the suffering they allegedly underwent during the forceful eviction.  

In 2019, the government allocated the vast land to Hill Side Agricultural Investment Limited for palm oil production. However, in March last year, the evictees took the advantage of the lockdown to resettle on the land. They started erecting makeshift structures for accommodation, opened up farms and started cutting trees for charcoal burning.

Residents, who spoke to Uganda Radio Network on condition of anonymity for fear of security, said that they are still waiting for compensation since the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Fisheries assured them of compensation.    

However, Robert Olinga Otolo, the former Akokoro Sub County LC 3 Chairperson, says that during their meeting with the investor, the government did not talk about any compensation.

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Peter Obong Acuda, the Speaker Apac district, who doubles as the Akokoro Sub County LC V Councillor, says that the contested land belongs to the government, which has since claimed ownership.

He says those still occupying Maruzi ranch land are criminals and face forceful eviction.  

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In December last year, former Independent presidential candidate, Lt Gen, Henry Tumukunde pledged to return the land to the residents. The former Security Minister made the promise after visiting the ancestral village of the late president, Dr Apollo Milton Obote in Akokoro Sub-county.

Emma Ngabirano, the Apac RDC says that Tumukunde's empty pledge is what has compelled the residents to return to the Ranch.