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Government's loud silence on Bukinda evictees a sign of unscrupulous deals in OPM

Updated: Jul 29, 2022

It's been more than a month since the Bukinda community began occupying the Resident District Commissioner's office in Kikuube town in a fight to fight to recover their ancestral land. The number of community members at the office has increased to over 2500 people, which makes up only a few of those deprived of their homes by the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) back in 2013 and again in 2020. This has been a sad narrative of the Bukinda community that has had to rebuild their lives over and over again owing to the same illegal evictions by OPM officials who illegally expanded the Kyangwali Refugee Settlement camp at the expense of the lives of the local settlers. The government remains quiet on this matter.

The community of over 4000 people are stuck in limbo since the unproductive and smaller rocky land in Kyeya on which they had been relocated has been taken back by the original owner and titleholder, Fred Bwambale. Among the perpetrators named, are former camp commandant, Jolly Kebirungi who connived with Charles Bafaki, and now Hon. Hillary Onek has continued to deny the Bukinda people of their homeland. After looking into their matter back in 2016, the President ordered the OPM office to return the land to the Bukinda people and compensate them for the damages and losses made but since then, this directive was ignored and people have still not been reinstated on their land.

"We are citizens of this country and we paid our taxes but we have suffered as though we are aliens. We have no land, no food, no schools, we lost all these on our land. This is very unfair to us. Charles Bafaki and Jolly gave us only 3 hours to leave our whole life behind or else they would use military force. This is what it means to feel homeless in your own home. We won't leave the RDC's office until we know if the presidential directive was fake or not so that we get out of this limbo. We want our land back, " - Asiimwe Kebirungi, a victim of the eviction.

A few weeks, Prime Minister, Hon. Robinah Nabbanja delegated a team comprised of the Cabinet Minister for Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, Hillary Onek, State Minister for the same, Esther Anyakun and Jennifer Nyamiryango, the Minister in charge of Bunyoro Affairs to assess the situation of the people and extend relief to the people occupying the RDC's office which did not arrive at the office. The three only went to the district headquarters and talked to the leaders only without reaching the people themselves. Worse, Hillary Onek ordered the dismissal of the people who currently have no home to inhabit but fortunately, the RDC refused to follow his order. So, what kind of report was been presented to the Prime Minister when people have not been met?

The conditions of the people at the RDC's office get worse each day as the children are getting sick, there's no food only little given by well-wishers to feed the people once a day and others use a wetland nearby area to bathe and drink water. Betty Ndaisanga, one of the victims camping at the RDC's office gave birth under uncertain conditions, there are more women yet to give birth. The RDC has continuously supported the community by following up on the presidential directive to verify its authenticity and also contributed a portion towards their welfare during this occupation.

It is very irritating that many officials are moving up and about to help a community that lost its land to a refugee camp and still present no answer to the people for a month. Where do the priorities of a government lie if they are willing to displace its very own just to make more space for others? Or is this one of the usual business ventures by greedy officials in the OPM?

This is one of the many communities in Uganda facing oppressive violations by government entities. We implore other communities to stand up for themselves and not to lose their land to grabbers like these.

Let's continue to stand in solidarity with the Bukinda community as they fight to recover their land. More Power to the Bukinda community.

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