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Batwa, NGOs Feud Over Land Rights

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Emmanuel Maniriho, a Mutwa from Mgahinga in Kisoro district, says following their eviction by government, they didn’t have anywhere to get food and other necessities for survival. He says although NGOs like BMCT intervened and bought them land, they have remained on tension because they don’t have any legal rights over the land.
07 Nov 2019 07:29
Bosco Akandwanaho, a Mutwa speaking to our reporter

Audio 7

There is a bitter row between the Batwa, a minority ethnic group in Kigezi Sub-region and Non-Government Organizations-NGOs over land rights.     

Batwa is a semi-nomadic pygmy tribe that lived in the jungles of Ecuya, Bwindi and Mgahinga forests as hunters and gatherers for centuries until 1992 when government without providing alternative land evicted them from their ancestral dwelling to conserve wildlife.   

Batwa note that when they threatened to forcefully return to the forest, Non-Government Organizations such as Bwindi Mgahinga Conservation Trust (BMCT), African International Christian Ministry (AICM) and Adventist Development and Relief Agency International (ADRA) intervened and bought them land where to construct their houses as well as farming.    

However, the Batwa says there is no guarantee of their continued stay on the land because the NGOs have declined to give them full rights over the land. They argue that they are living a life of uncertainty since it is very difficult for them to claim ownership of the land bought for them by NGOs without the necessary documentation.   

Emmanuel Maniriho, a Mutwa from Mgahinga in Kisoro district, says following their eviction by government, they didn’t have anywhere to get food and other necessities for survival.  He says although NGOs like BMCT intervened and bought them land, they have remained on tension because they don’t have any legal rights over the land.     

Charity Provia, a Mutwa from Murambo village in Butanda Sub County in Kabale district, says they have many unanswered questions due to the failure by the African International Christian Ministry to handover the land agreements. 

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Bosco Akandwanaho , a Mutwa from Kinyarushengye in Bufundi sub county in Rubanda district, says it is very hard for their children to inherit the said land when they pass on because they don’t the necessary papers.

Akandwanaho wants the NGOs to be considerate and handover the purchase agreements to them as a way of proving that they have full ownership rights. 

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Ben Bernard Byekwaso, the Director of Nkuringo Cultural Centre in Rubuguri town council in Kisoro district has also thrown his weight behind the Batwa, saying the NGOs should handover the agreements on condition that they shouldn’t resell the land. 

 

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But Phares Kosia Kakuru, the Programs Manager Bwindi Mgahinga Conservation Trust says that there are no way the NGO’s can handover agreements to the Batwa to give them full right on the land.   

According to Kakuru, the Batwa have a habit of selling everything given to them in preference for alcohol adding, that NGO’s cannot risk the land by giving them full rights.    

Kakuru also says that they have received many cases where the Batwa have even failed to utilize the available land but instead hire it to other people for cultivation in order to raise quick money to buy alcohol.

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Faith Tushabe Kayeye, the Director of African International Christian Ministry also says it is difficult to handover the land fully to the Batwa because it is not surveyed.     

Tushabe says the batwa have a right to utilize the land by cultivation and grazing livestock, but the NGOs can’t risk giving them full ownership rights for fear that they might sell it.   

  

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