Kween — More than 500 residents of Ngorymwet Parish, Igenge Sub-county in Kween District, have been rendered homeless after they were allegedly evicted from their land, which is more than 7,000 acres, by an investor.
The said land borders Bulambuli and Kween districts near River Atari. The land was allegedly allocated to Fol Logistics Limited to establish a rice factory and also promote the growing of rice by the Bulambuli local government in 2017.
The evicted residents told Daily Monitor on Saturday that they were cruelly evicted by the investor with the aid of Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF) soldiers reportedly on orders of Resident District Commissioner of Bulambuli, Mr Peter Pex Paak, on Thursday last week.
"The soldiers came here during broad daylight and evicted us from our ancestral land. We are the rightful owners and we have never given out our land," Mr Micheal Cherop, a resident, said.
Mr Cherop said the soldiers burnt more than 100 grass thatched huts.
"We cried but nobody came to our rescue. They later moved away and left us in tears and homeless," he said.
Ms Mwajuma Chemutai, a resident, said it is unfortunate that UPDF soldiers, who are supposed to protect them, were being used to torture them, citizens of Uganda.
Mr Muhammed Seiko, a resident, said the government should intervene.
Mr Patrick Kissa, a local leader, said it does not matter whether the land is in Bulambuli or Kween, it still belongs to them.
He said soldiers, who carried out the eviction, are attached to Chepsukunya Barracks.
Mr Peter Satya, the chairperson of Ngenge Sub-county, who was arrested by police for inciting violence on Friday last week, said the land belongs to locals and whoever sold to the investor, was a land grabber.
"The investor is using state agents to torture the people who are the rightful owners of the land. This is a disappointment," he said.
Mr Paul Machinjach, the LC5 chairperson of Kween District, blamed RDC of Bulambuli for failing to resolve the impasse.
"Whenever we demand for a meeting with investor, the RDC always comes in as the representative. He has misused his office for personal interests. We have written to the concerned authorities over the same," he said.
The UPDF 3rd Division spokesperson, Capt Abert Arinaitwe, refuted the locals' claims.
"The RDC accompanied by the soldiers visited and talked to the locals, who have set a camp on the land, which belongs to the investor but they never burnt the huts. The huts were burnt by locals themselves shortly after the RDC and soldiers had left the scene," he said.
"We had a meeting with locals and we left without any hut being torched. It was instead the locals, who later mobilised themselves and burnt their huts. When we saw the huts burning, the soldiers rushed back to put out the fire. That is when the locals took pictures of soldiers and used them for their own interests," the RDC said.
He said the disputed land was leased to the investor by Kandu J Nabibya and 40 others, who are the rightful owners.
'Investors plans frustrated'
Mr Paak said failure of the locals to vacate the land is frustrating the investor's plans.
"The investor intends to clear and start ploughing the land for rice growing that's why we requested them to vacate," he said.
The site supervisor of Fol Logistics Limited, who only identified himself as Alphin, said: "Our project is registered and it's in Bulambuli District. Any information you are getting on eviction is false."
Past wrangles. In February, a dispute erupted between Kween and Bulambuli districts over ownership of land at the border between the two districts.
The conflict resurfaced after a group of residents from Kween, armed with pangas, arrows and bows reportedly attacked government officials from the Ministry of Lands and Local Government, who were opening the boundaries.
Police confirmed the attack.
Mr Lawrence Wadada, the chief administrative officer of Bulambuli District, said the opening of the boundary was intended to provide lasting solution to the land wrangles between the two districts.