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Indigenous communities lost over 9 square miles; coerced to accommodate refugees



By Team

As the entire world praises Uganda for having the best refugee settlement model, in the process a lot of violations and forceful land acquisition goes on unreported. Over 35000 indigenous families in Rwentuha sub county, Kyegegwa district have been forced by Ugandan government to accept losing more than 50% of their land in order to accommodate refugees. Kyegegwa district is found in the South Western region of Uganda and its one of the districts that have been curved out Fort portal district.

Rwentuha Sub County is estimated to be sitting on over 15 square miles with majority families surviving on farming. The investigations reveal that two out of three parishes that make Rwentuha namely Rutaraka and Ngangi have been designated for refugees, leaving the indigenous land owners struggling to find food to feed their families and to generate enough money to meet daily basic needs including sending their children to school.

Affected villages include; Kijanamiganda Lc1, Rushaumbe LC1, Kashasha LC1, Buhembe LC1, Karubajimba LC1, Kabaraba LC1, Sooba Lc1, Ngangi LC1, Rutaraka LC 1 A and B, Rwentuha LC1, Rusorora LC 1, Kisororola LC1 , Akasomoro LC1, Kazinga A LC1, Kazinga B LC 1, Kazinga Central LC1, Ekyeliso LC1, Kabuvuma LC1, Kanyinteka LC1  and Kitemba LC 1

Government’s exercise of securing land for refugees lasted for six months and was manned by the Office of the Prime Minister with support from security agencies including the army and police. According to sources, the exercise sidelined all elected leaders at the district.

Well as the indigenous opposed the exercise, the police and army are being accused of using excessive force where a number of community members were arrested and detained and later released after part of their land had been forcefully taken.

Yorakimu Tulyahabwe, 57, told that about 20 police officers led by the DPC for Kyegegwa district Mr Tubanone Jorum invaded Kazinga trading centre, begun beating up people, a police officer flogged him several times on the head, hands and at the back that he was seriously hurt later on forcefully dragged to police patrol car before being admitted at Kyegegwa health centre IV. “It’s a pity that we were being beaten to this extent because of fighting for our own land, we are also Ugandans that need protection but its seemed government is more interested in refugees” Said Tulyahabwe

A one Sarah Tukamuhebwa explained that; before her land was taken, they had several developments on their land like huge banana plantations, coffee plantations, cattle farms and used them as collateral to obtain money from various banks that they used to pay off school fees for their children but they were left with nothing but with a burden to pay off the pending loans.

Officials at the Office of the Prime Minister told the that the land in question is part of Kyaka One (1) refugee settlement. However, the indigenous communities possess land ownership documentations.

Since February 2017, more than 8000 refugees have been settled on the land competing for the existing little clean water with the indigenous communities. Other basic needs being struggled for include; no medicine in health facilities and limited school space among others.

According to Nimpamya Daniel Muhango, the vice chairman, Kyegegwa district, natives have faced government’s mistreatment at the expense of refugees. “How do you expect refugees and locals to live in harmony when those who are supposed to look after the refugees on arrival are subjected to different forms of mistreatment” wondered Nimpamya.

He added that even after locals lost their land, there’s no plan for compensation or expecting direct support from government after losing their source of livelihood.

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Complaint against unprofessional conduct of the DPC Kiryandongo district for aiding and abetting land grabbing in kiryandongo district.



The Commandant,

Professional Standards Unit, Uganda Police-Kampala.

Dear Sir/Madam;


We act for and behalf of the Lawful and bonafide occupants of Land described as LRV MAS 2 FOLIO 8 BLOCK 8 PLOT 22 (FORMERLY KNOWN AS RANCH 22).

Our Clients are residents of Nyamutende Village, Kitwara Parish in Kiryandongo District where they have lived for more than 30 years and sometime in 2017, they applied for a lease of the said Land to Kiryandongo District Land Board through the Directorate of Land Matters State House.

As they were still awaiting their Application to be processed, they were shocked to establish that the said land had been instead leased to and registered in the names of Isingoma Julius, Mwesige Simon, John Musokota William, Tumusiime Gerald, Wabwire Messener Gabriel, Ocema Richard and Wilson Shikhama, some of whom were not known to the Complainants. A copy of the Search is attached hereto

Our clients protested the above action and appealed to relevant offices, but were shocked to discover that the above persons had gone ahead and sold the same to a one Maseruka Robert.

Aggrieved by these actions, the Complainants appealed to the RDC who advised them to institute proceedings against the said persons, and assigned them a one Mbabazi Samuel to assist them to that effect. The said Mbabazi accordingly filed Civil Suit Noa 46 of 2019 against tne said registered proprietors at Masindi High Court challenging the illegal and fraudulent registration, sale and transfer of the subject land to Maseruka Robert.

While awaiting the progress of the case mentioned hereinabove, the Complainants were surprised to find that the said Mbabazi, instead of assisting them, he went into a consent settling the said suit on their behalf without their knowledge or consent. A copy of the Consent is attached hereto.

Among the terms of the said consent Judgment was that the residents would be compensated without specifying how much and would in return vacate the Land.

As if that was not enough, Maseruka Robert and Mbabazi Samuel are going ahead to execute the said Consent Judgment by forcefully evicting the occupants without compensation which has prompted the complainants to challenge the said Consent by applying for its review and setting aside at Masindi High Court which is coming up for hearing on the 29th March 2023. A copy of the Application is attached hereto.

Sensing the imminent threat of eviction, we also filed an application for interim stay of execution of the said consent to avoid rendering their application for review nugatory but unfortunately the same could not be heard on the date it was fixed for hearing (6th February 2023). A copy of the Application is attached hereto

On Thursday last week, three tractors being operated by 6 workers of a one Mbabazi Samuel [the very person who had been entrusted to represent our Clients to secure their Land through Civil Suit No.46 of 2019] encroached close to 50 acres of our Clients’ land and started ploughing it but our Client’s protested and chased them away.

We have however been shocked to receive information from our Clients that on Sunday at Mid night, 3 police patrols invaded the community in the night and arrested community members; Mulenje Jack, Steven Kagyenji, Mulekwa David, Ntambala Geoffrey, Tumukunde Isaac 15 years, Kanunu Innocent, Mukombozi Frank, Kuzara, Rwamunyankole Enock, and took them to Kiryandongo Police Station where they are currently detained.

We strongly protest the illegal arrests and detention of our Clients as this is a carefully orchestrated land grabbing scheme by Maseruka Robert and Mbabazi Samuel who are  receiving support from the DPC Kiryandongo.

The purpose of this Letter therefore is to request your good office to investigate the misconduct, abuse of office and unprofessionalism of the said DPC Kiryandongo District and all his involvement in the land grabbing schemes on land formerly known as Ranch 22.

Looking forward to your urgent intervention,

C.C The Head Police Land Protection Unit Police Head Quarters Naguru

CC The RDC Kiryandongo District

CC The Chairman LCVKityadongo District

CC The Regional Police CommanderAlbertine Region

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The Executive Director of Witness Radio Uganda talks about the role played by Witness Radio in protecting communities affected by large-scale agribusinesses in Kiryandongo district in an interview with the ILC.



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Witness Radio Uganda wins the best CSO land rights defenders award at the National Land Forum Awards.



By Witness Radio Team

Uganda’s leading land and environmental rights watchdog, Witness Radio has been awarded the best CSO land rights defender award 2022 in the recently concluded National Land Forum Awards held last week at Mestil hotel in Kampala.

Witness Radio’s executive Director, Jeff Wokulira Ssebaggala attributed the award to the community land and environmental rights defenders who stand up against the intimidation and different forms of harassment from land grabbers (economically powerful and politically connected companies and individual investors).

“This is an award for defenders at a community level. They work in very deadly environments filled with harassment, torture, death threats, arrest, trumped-up charges, and kidnaps among others to advocate for community land and environment rights. This is happening at a spate where criminalization and silencing of  community land rights defenders are at increase.” Jeff added.

The award has come at a time when hundreds of Ugandans in different parts of the country are accessing services provided by the organization ranging from legal service provisions, non-judicial mechanism engagements, empowerment to help them understand their rights, and using the same knowledge to use the same skills to push back against illegal and forced evictions

The chairman of the organizing committee of the second National Land Forum, Mr. Jimmy Ochom noted some progress on legislation in Uganda’s land Governance. He cited growing inequalities on land where the poor are more vulnerable.

During awards, the state minister for housing, Hon persis Namuganza revealed that the government approved the plan for 2018-2040 that maps the land use in the country.

According to the minister, the government had identified land for settlement, game reserves, wildlife, arable land for farming, and water bodies among others in the plan which she said was passed a few weeks ago.

The event was organized by Oxfam and partners and provided a platform for discussions by the different actors in the land sector on issues around land governance, including land rights, land administration, and land governance for improved collaboration, cooperation between the actors, and improved land service delivery for Ugandans under a theme “Taking stock of the National Land Policy in addressing Land inequality in addressing Land inequality in Uganda.”

Other categories of awards that were won by different organizations and individuals including Mr. Eddie Nsamba-Gayiiya for his contribution to research on land rights, Justice Centers Uganda for Promoting Access to Land Justice, and Mr. Henry Harrison Irumba for Championing Legal Reforms among others.

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