Kampala, Uganda — More than 2000 people from Kimengo sub county in Masindi district are facing eviction from land belonging to Uganda Investment Authority-UIA. The affected are residents of Bungucoda, Nyakarongo, Kiryana, Ijwamba and Kokoitwa villages.
A team of police officers backed by Uganda Peoples Defense Force-UPDF soldiers stormed the villages on Saturday last week under the command of Masindi Resident District Commissioner-RDC, Godfrey Nyakahuma and asked the residents to vacate the land within hours.
They allegedly demolished resident's homes, destroyed crops like maize, banana plantations and beans among others. Some of the residents had occupied the contested land measuring approximately 60 square miles for over 15 years.
Our reporter visited the area on Tuesday morning found several UPDF soldiers and police officers on the contested piece of land. It is alleged that Uganda Investment Authority-UIA bought the contested land from Bunyoro Grower's Union in 2005.
It later leased out the land to four companies including Mena food Limited, Soul Agro business, Critical mass limited and Afro CAI Company limited for redevelopment. However, some of the affected had settled on the land before Bunyoro Grower's Union sold it to Uganda Investment Authority in 2005.
Last week, Afro CAI Company limited and Soul Agro business delivered poles to fence off the land for redevelopment drawing protests from residents. This attracted the attention of Masindi District Security Committee led by the RDC.
They rushed to the area to calm down the situation. 18 residents whose identities have been concealed for fear of jeopardizing police investigations were apprehended and whisked off to Masindi Central Police Station where they are still locked up.
Justine Tushabe, one of the residents facing the forceful eviction faults the RDC for the brutal eviction, saying there was need to engage them.
Florence Nabukenya, another affected resident says they are stranded given the violent and brutal eviction they are facing. She says their children cannot access school given the heavy deployment on what she calls their land.
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Isa Mugoya, another resident says most people operating businesses in the area acquired loans from banks and may fail to pay back because of the violent eviction.
Cosmas Byaruhanga, the Masindi District LC V Chairperson condemned the brutal eviction and arrest of the residents by security operatives, saying dialogue is the best way to go.
He says residents who were occupying the land before Uganda Investment Authority bought it in 2005 should have been compensated before they are evicted.
Godfrey Nyakahuma, the Masindi RDC says he acted on the instructions of Finance Minister; Matia Kasaija who asked him to give the occupants seven days to vacate the land for redevelopment by investors.
Julius Hakiza, the Albertine Region Police spokesperson, says those in custody will be charged with malicious damage and criminal trespass.
Uganda Investment Authority hasn't yet commented as it couldn't be reached by them time of filing this story.