Masindi, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | More than 1000 people from Kirayana village in Kimengo sub county in Masindi district are facing eviction from their homes. On Thursday, officials from Mena Food Company Limited stormed the area under the protection of Uganda People’s Defense Forces-UPDF soldiers and started fencing off 60 square miles of land including Kiryana village.
The contested land reportedly belongs to Uganda Investment Authority-UIA, which bought it from Bunyoro Grower’s Union in 2005. UIA went ahead and leased the land to Mena Food Company limited, Soul Agro business, Critical mass limited and Afro CAI Company Limited for redevelopment.
However, the decision to fence off the disputed land didn’t go down well with residents. They confiscated and destroyed concrete poles that the workers were using to fence off the land and chased away the company workers from the site.
The residents vowed to die protecting their land saying they cannot allow to be evicted from their ancestral land. Moses Kigundu, who has occupied the disputed land for over 15 years explains that government stopped all forms of evictions during the lockdown and wonders why Mena food limited wants to evict them.
Justine Tushabe also a resident on the disputed land wants government to investigate Mena Food Limited and some key security personnel in the district for plotting to evict them from their land. She says government should compensate them if they are to leave the land adding that they can’t just be evicted like dogs from their own land.
Geoffrey Musimenta, the Kiryana village defense secretary says evicting them during the COVID-19 pandemic period is criminal.
Cosmas Byaruhanga, the Masindi district LC 5 chairperson says it is not good to evict the residents from the land they have occupied for more than 20 years without compensating them. He calls for dialogue to resolve the land dispute.
In November 2019, more than 2,000 people from Bungucoda, Nyakarongo, Ijwamba and Kokoitwa village in Kimengo sub county were forcefully evicted from part of this land. The residents were given a few hours to vacate the land.
The eviction was effected by a team of police officers backed by Uganda Peoples Defense Force-UPDF under the command of the former Masindi Resident District Commissioner-RDC, Godfrey Nyakahuma acting on instructions of Finance Minister Matia Kasaija.
Several homes demolished and crop gardens were razed to pave way for redevelopment of the land. The controversy reached its peak when Afro CAI Company Limited and Soul Agro Business attempted to fence off the land in November last year drawing protests from residents some of whom had occupied the contested land for over 15 years.
18 residents who opposed to the brutal eviction were arrested and detained at Masindi central police station. Last week, the Lands Minister Betty Olive Kamya told Uganda Radio Network that her Ministry had intervened into the dispute between Uganda Investment Authority-UIA and more than 2,000 residents over the same piece of land.
She halted evictions on the said land and cautioned security officials against effecting evictions in the absence of a court order. Kamya said her ministry will institute a committee to establish the rightful owners of the land and investigate circumstances under which the people are being evicted.
The managers of Mena food Limited have not yet commented on the proposed land evictions as they couldn’t be reached by our reporter.