The more than 1,000 people evicted from their ancestral land in Kyangwali sub-county in Kikuube district are protesting a letter authored by President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni referring to them as liars who want to steal government land.

The residents who have pitched camp at the office of the Kikuube Resident District Commissioner (RDC) since February state that they are the genuine owners of over 36 square kilometres of land which is now under dispute between them and the Kyangwali Refugee Settlement.

They are mainly women and children who were evicted from the villages of Bukinda, Kavule, Kyeya, Bwizibwera Nyaruhanga, Kabirizi, Nyamigisa and Katoma among others, in the Kyangwali sub-county.

In a letter dated July 17, 2022, President Museveni referred to the evicted residents as liars who want to steal government land.

In the letter addressed to Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja, President Museveni stated that he got a report from Brigadier Henry Isoke of the State House Anti-corruption Unit indicating that the Kingdom of Bunyoro Kitara donated 60 square miles of land in 1960 for the purpose of helping the refugees and foreigners coming to Bunyoro.

He added that back then, very few Banyoro and Batoro were in the area adding that most of the claimants are liars. He says that some years ago, former Prime Minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda proposed a soft landing to deduct 10 square miles from the government land to settle the residents. The arrangement would give eight square miles to the ones from far away and two square miles to the indigenous Banyoro and Batooro with each family getting 2.5 acres.

He has directed the Prime Minister to order the evictees to accept the 2.5 acres ex-gratia allocated to each family or they forfeit even that one and stop disturbing public peace with their lies. According to Museveni, it is not good to get in the habit of stealing government land or falsely claiming other peoples’ land.

But the aggrieved residents say that the president is being misled about the conflict adding that most of the people he sends on fact-finding missions about the land go to the area when they are already compromised and feed him with wrong information.

Laurencio Tibesigwa, 70, one of the affected residents explains that his grandparents settled on the land in the 1950s, long before the said acquisition by the government and wonders how the government came to acquire the same land. He demands that the president visits the area to establish the truth about the said land.

Justine Kusiima, 73, another of the residents says that people who have been sent by the president to investigate the conflict have fed him with wrong information adding that only the president can get the correct information about the land in question.

Staratori Mutagamba, 65, also a resident on the contested land says that the president’s letter has reignited the untold suffering they have gone through for the past 13 years yet they thought that he who would be their saviour and resettle them on their ancestral land.

Officials from the settlement and the Office of the Prime Minister have been feuding with the residents since 2013 over the ownership of the land in question.

In September 2013, the officials from the Office of the Prime Minister backed by the police and UPDF evicted more than 60,000 people from the contested land and resettled Congolese refugees on the land.

The residents were forced to settle in camps in Kyeya village in Kyangwali sub-county under very poor conditions where they have stayed to date.

In 2016 and 2018, President Museveni ordered that the evicted residents be resettled on their ancestral land.

In October 2021, Prime Minister Nabbanja halted all the activities by her office on the contested land. This was during her visit to the area to assess the condition of the evictees where she discovered that some officials from the OPM and Kyangwali refugee settlement area had connived to erect structures for refugees on the contested land, planted crops like beans, maize, cassava, bananas and groundnuts among others.

According to Nabbanja, this could be a move by some OPM and Kyangwali refugee settlement area officials to fraudulently grab the land from locals neighbouring the settlement.

She ordered the Minister for disaster preparedness, the Camp commandant of Kyangwali refugee’s settlement area, Kikuube District Police Commander (DPC) and Resident district Commissioner (RDC) to ensure that no more activity takes place on the contested land until investigations into the wrangles are completed.

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