Hoima, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | More than 500 families that were forcefully evicted from a contested piece of land in Kyabisagazi I and II villages in Kigrobya Sub-county Hoima district are still in misery despite receiving food relief from the Office of the Prime Minister-OPM.
The families were forced from what they claim to be their ancestral land on February 13, 2019 by a joint security team comprising the army and police. The security officers raided the village under the guise of tracking down people involved in subversive activities.
The operation was allegedly prompted by intelligence indicating that a group of foreigners had invaded the area and were posing a security threat. During the operation, residents fought back and killed Julius Taremwa, a constable attached to Hoima Central Police station after mistaking them for thugs.
What appeared to be a cordon and search operation turned into an eviction displacing the families that had settled on the contested land measuring 485 acres. The land has been at the center of a dispute between Edgar Agaba, a businessman in Hoima town and residents for decades.
Following the cry for help by the affected persons, OPM sent them 500 bags of rice of 50kgs each on July 5, 2019. However, to date, the evictees are yet to receive the rice. Some of the evictees wondered during an interview with URN at Kibali church of Uganda in Kibali village in Budongo Sub-county in Masindi district on Monday why the relief aid hasn’t been distributed one and half months since the OPM donated it to them.
Bahati Ondoma, one of the affected persons, says they are in untold suffering ever since they were forcefully evicted from their ancestral land. He explains that most of them mainly children and women have nothing to eat and that some of their colleagues have started dying of hunger.
Kellena Oyeki, 55, explained that women are the most affected since they have to look after children and provide for the family. He wonders why there is a delay in the distribution of the food relied sent by the OPM.
Jackson Ochama, another affected person wants the OPM to investigate why the food relief has never reached them.
Robert Kabagambe, another resident says the delayed distribution of the food relief is a deliberate move by the sub county and district officials to deny them the rice.
Jackson Mugenyi Mulindambura, the Kigorobya sub-county LC 5 councilor attributes the delayed distribution of the food relief on the fact that district authorities can’t trace the affected people. However, a section of the evictees said their area councilor; Samuel Musinguzi picked a list of their names from their current location.
Efforts to get a comment from Musinguzi were futile as his known mobile telephone number was unreachable. Mulindambura said the relief aid is still intact, adding that it is being kept in the stores of Majestic Enterprises limited in Kigorobya town council.
He explains that they are still waiting for verification of the evictees so that they can distribute the rice.
However, URN has since established said store is a Guest House belonging to Mulindambura. Anthony Lukwago, the Hoima Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) said he was aware of the delayed distribution of the food relief, adding that he instructed the verification team to expedite the process.
David Karubanga, the Kigorobya County Member of Parliament who also doubles as the Public Service State Minister, accused the CAO, Mulindambura and Hoima LC V Chairperson, Kadiri Kirungi for allegedly halting the food relief distribution for their personal gains.
He wants the officials to be investigated for contravening the Prime Minister’s directive.
Efforts to get a comment from the LC5 Chairperson were futile since his phone was off. In March, this year, the speaker of Parliament; Rebecca Kadaga constituted a select committee when the Ora County Member of parliament, Lawrence Biyika Songa brought the matter of the evictees to the attention of parliament on February 21, 2019.
The committee is chaired by Gaster Mugoya Kyawa, the Bukhooli North County MP. The other members are Budaka Woman MP, Pamela Kamoga Naiso, Makindye East MP, Ibrahim Kasozi Biribawa, Bududa Woman MP, Justine Khainza, UPDF Representative, Brig.Flavia Byekwaso, Oyam Woman MP, Santa Alum, and Busiki County MP, Paul Akamba.
The select committee is operating under six terms of reference including studying all claims of ownership on the disputed land, investigating allegations relating to identity and status of persons evicted, examining the involvement and conduct of security officers in the eviction of families. The committee has never tabled its findings about the eviction.