KYANGWALI: When Minister Hillary Obaloker Onek told Kikuube district officials that people who were kicked out of the Kyangwali refugee settlement should be chased from the office of the Resident District Commissioner, they didn’t like it.
The affected family members have pitched outside the RDC’s office since Monday last week, demanding the intervention of President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni to help them return to their land. The group was evicted by the office of the prime minister in 2013 to make way for the expansion of the Kyangwali refugee settlement from 50 to 70 square miles.
Over 1500 people are part of the 10,000 people from Bukinda parish in Kyangwali sub-county, Kikuube district, who were settled on eight square miles of land in Kyeeya and Busanga villages in Kasonga parish following their forceful eviction from Bukinda parish.
According to the affected residents, each family received 2.5 acres of land in Kyeeya and Busanga villages, which they say doesn’t favour agriculture, their mainstay activity. Even President Museveni told them that they were thrown out of their homes illegally and should be allowed back on their land.
On Wednesday afternoon, Minister Onek was expected to meet the affected people at the Kikuube RDC’s office, but he instead ordered police to disperse them. During the meeting, Onek talked with Kikuube district officials like the Resident District Commissioner Amlam Tumusiime, LC V chairperson Peter Banura and his executive team as well as the Office of Public Management (OPM).
However, some leaders and members of Parliament snubbed the meeting, saying that the minister was meant to listen to the pleas of the affected people and not address the leaders. During the meeting, Onek told the district officials that the evictees have no land in Bukinda and advised them to go back to the land where the government resettled them.
He ordered security to investigate claims that some officials were hiring the Bukinda land for possible prosecution. He accused area MPs and councillors, among others, of mobilising the evictees because of their political interests.
Onek ordered Vicente Mwesigye, the Albertine Regional Police Commander, and Richard Asiimwe, the Kikuube District Police Commander, to find all possible means to chase the evictees from the RDC’s office.
He also directed that they not be given any relief aid unless they are back on the land that was allocated to them. The minister’s directives did not go down well with the area leaders. In vain, Vicente Opio, the Kikuube District LC V Vice-chairperson, asked the Minister to deliver his message to the affected people. He instead directed the RDC to do so. Opio accused the minister of issuing unrealistic orders that would instead cause more chaos.
Peter Banura, the Kikuube LC V Chairperson, wondered why the minister would defy the orders of Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja to meet the affected people and give them relief food. He also noted that the order to disperse the affected people forcefully was inhuman.
Florence Natumanya, the Kikuube District Woman MP who boycotted the meeting, described the minister as a coward, adding that his failure to meet the affected people was a disappointment. She advised security agencies to handle the matter with care, arguing that as leaders they were not ready to support the harassment of the residents without listening to their concerns. The RDC has promised to hold a security meeting this week to find a way forward on the matter.