80 families who opted for relocation in Kabaale parish in Buseruka Sub County in Hoima district have petitioned the district security officials to intervene in their growing conflict between them and the cattle keepers.
In a letter of 11th May written by Oil Refinery Residents Association to the Albertine Regional Police Commander, they claim that since majority people who opted for cash compensation were paid and left, the area has become bushy attracting cattle keepers. As a result, the scattered families that remained waiting for compensation have had challenges with cattle keepers who destroy their crops and their water points.
The affected residents further complain that most of them have been arrested on baseless claims whenever they attempt to report the matter to police making them suspect that the cattle keepers have back up of security.
Innocent Tumwebaze, the chairperson of the Oil Refinery Residents Association (ORRA) says the delayed relocation has affected their livelihood lack of access to food as it is destroyed by cattle keepers, education and clean water.
“The number of cattle is increasing day by day and these people intentionally graze on our crops while they are watching. When we attempt to chase the cattle, they report us to have injured their cattle. And the police at Nyahaira and Kyapaloni are not helping us.”
Burandina Tumwebaze, of one the affected residents says she was forced to go back to her parents’ home with the children since she waited for relocation in vain and could not handle growing crops only to be destroyed by cattle.
In 2012, Government through the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development acquired 28 Square Kilometers of land and 13 villages were affected to pave way for the construction of the proposed oil refinery and over 80 families opted for relocation. However, 5 years down the road, families are still waiting for relocation.
COMPILED BY PRECIOUS NATURINDA
A man who lost sight in the brutal 2014 evictions in Rwamutonga now has fresh fears for his life
Mr. Paskari Wanna talked to us from outside his makeshift hut which serves as a home of 10 people. He belongs to the 53 households that were recently returned land after spending more than two years in Rwamutonga camp for internally displaced people following a brutal night eviction in 2014.
We found the 55 year old father of eight seated on the floor seemingly engulfed by deep thoughts. He and his children had finished eating a jackfruit. Not only did the children look emaciated but also their parents; some half naked, others completely naked.
As we begin talking to him he immediately alerted us that he cannot see us at all. He was visually impaired.
“I lost my sight during 2014 eviction. In the wee hours of morning of 24th August I heard gun shots and noise in the neighborhood that woke me up. I saw the houses being torched downed by police. In a blink of an eye, three men dressed in Police Uniform had already dragged me down and started hitting, slapping and trampling on me. That is when I lost conscience until the next day only to realize that I can’t see any more,” Mr. Wannna deep breathed as he narrated.
According to Mr. Wanna, his efforts to seek medical attention at Hoima Regional Referral Hospital yielded no results since they required money yet he had lost everything to the eviction.
Wanna’s condition has left his wife, Betty Kusemerwa, struggling for survival of both the children and his husband. She says the children have since dropped out of school and depend on one meal a day.
“It’s me who built this hut.” Kusemererwa narrated. “Ever since my husband became blind I have been the man and wife in this house. My life in the camp was not easy as I depended on casual labor for food but I have hope that now that we have returned to our land, I will be able to make gardens and feed my family. What is important now is food not any other”, she added.
The 53 families who were evicted from the disputed land in Rwamutonga village in Bugambe Sub County in Hoima district returned back after one of the businessman at centre of the case, Robert Bansigaraho accepted to return 103 hectares to the families.
Wanna says he owns 15 acres of land and has lived on the land for over 40 years. He explains that he feels hurt to have lost sight to an eviction that was illegal. “I feel hurt that I now have no capacity to fend for my children. They starve and start crying when I am there but I can’t do anything. All our eyes are on my wife. All these are happening because of greedy people.”
On 4th this month, a team of security officials led by the Hoima Resident District Commissioner, Isaac Kawooya met the affected residents of Rwamutonga and informed them to be ready for an eviction which would take place anytime. This follows the aborted eviction order that was supposed to be executed by 4th of May.
Like any other affected residents who are threatened by fresh eviction order, Wanna fears for his life and has vowed not to leave the land again. “I have no capacity to run or fight so I will die from here. This is my land.” he vowed.
During our recent visit to the area with the German based filmmakers Lukas Kuhne and Jacob Blut who had gone to film the situation of the affected residents, it was observed that people had started erecting houses and planting gardens on their land.
Allan Kalangi, the Manager for Sustainability School Program of the National Association of Professional Environmentalists asked the affected communities to remain united in fighting for their land rights and continue using Community Green Radio as a tool of amplifying their voices.
“Since you are backed by your leaders, you have to remain united and defend your land and the radio is there for you to amplify your voices,” He said