The Monitor (Kampala)

14 May 2007

Uganda: Sabiny Demand Land As K'jong Raids Reduce

Kapchorwa — WITH attacks by the Karimojong on neighbouring communities now largely under control, the Sabiny are some of the displaced people who have slowly started returning to their formerly abandoned land.

However, according to the Kapchorwa district leadership this presents a challenge, especially regarding the resettlement of the Sabiny who initially stayed in Bunambutye sub-county in neighbouring Sironko district.

According to LC5 district chairman Nelson Chelimo, with the displacement having occurred prior to Independence in 1962 when Bunambutye was reportedly under the Sabiny, questions of land ownership are bound to arise.

Resettlement issue

Mr Chelimo said: "The Sabiny are now asking themselves, who is going to resettle them? Is it the Sironko district local government or Kapchorwa local government? Residents want to return from Bugiri, Teso, Masindi, Kenya and other places where they had migrated because they see peace has returned."

Mr Chelimo's fears are not unfounded. The Sabiny and Bagisu have in the past fought over land, particularly in the sub-counties of Bunambutye, Muyembe, Sisiyi and Buginyanya. All these areas they claim initially belonged to them.

"There were wars in 1965, 1966 and 1979 when Amin was overthrown. There was a lot of fighting and people lost lives-partially because of this suspicion and conflict over the boundary between the Bagisu and Sabiny," Mr Chelimo said.

The land conflict was even recognised in the pre-independence meetings in London as indicated by some of the minutes obtained by Daily Monitor. Mr Chelimo said the Sabiny, who were placed under Bugisu District council by the colonialists, are still bitter that their land "was stolen politically and administratively."

For now, however, Mr Chelimo says the Sironko local government should prepare to receive the Sabiny in Bunambutye, where they were the majority settlers before they were massively displaced as a result of Karimojong raids.

However, when reached for a comment last week, Sironko LC5 Chairperson Kibale Wambi said there was no need for sounding alarm bells by the Kapchorwa leadership.

"The Bagisu and Sabiny have co-existed for long. While there are Sabiny owning land in Sebei, there are also Sabiny with land in Bugisu. We are living peacefully. If people genuinely own land here why should they be stopped from reclaiming it? There is no problem with that," Mr Wambi said in an interview.

Co-existence, argued Mr Wambi, was the driving factor in the current era of globalisation, adding that antagonism between tribes was retrogressive. "As long as I am still chairman no rightful land owner in the district shall be harassed regardless of their tribe, religion or colour," he said.

Displacement report

Meanwhile, for the first time since the Karimojong displaced the Sabiny, a Kapchorwa NGO has released a report detailing the magnitude of the problem.

Soy Foundation conducted the study in the Sebei districts of Kapchorwa and Bukwo and released the report on May 7.

The study shows that since 1959, 5,481 families have been displaced, 34,523 people affected, 1,639 lives lost and 144,217 head of cattle rustled. The report calls for immediate assistance from the government and aid agencies to help people resettle and the provision of their basic needs.

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