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Select Committee Faults Minister, Agaba and Security Agencies Over Kigorobya Evictions

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Among the key findings are that the families were illegally evicted and displaced from their homes forcing them to take refuge in nearby bushes, villages and Budongo Forest in Masindi district.
05 Dec 2019 12:08
Select Committee faults Minister Ernest Kiiza, business man Edgar Agaba and security officers On illegal evictions
A parliamentary select committee has faulted the Bunyoro Affairs Minister, Ernest Kiiza, police, army and Edgar Agaba for the illegal eviction of 300 families from their homes in Kirogobya Sub County in Hoima District. The families were evicted from contested land measuring 438 hectares in February this year.

  Buhaguzi MP, Daniel Muheirwe brought the plight of the affected people to the attention of parliament. He asked the house to appoint a select committee to investigate the humanitarian crisis arising out of the eviction and displacement of the families. 

As a result, the speaker of parliament, Rebecca Kadaga instituted a select committee led by the Bukholi County MP, Guster Mugoya, Budaka Woman MP, Pamela Kamoga Naiso and Makindye East MP, Ibrahim Kasozi Biribawa. Others members included Bududa Woman MP, Justine Khainza, UPDF Representative, Brig. Flavia Byekwaso, Oyam Woman MP, Santa Alum and Busiki County MP, Paul Akamba. 

She tasked the committee to studying all claims of ownership on the disputed land, allegations relating to the identity and status of persons evicted and the involvement and conduct of security officers in the evictions. On Wednesday, the Committee Chairperson, Guster Mugoya presented their report to parliament.

Among the key findings are that the families were illegally evicted and displaced from their homes forcing them to take refuge in nearby bushes, villages and Budongo Forest  in Masindi district.  The Committee report particularly faults the Bunyoro Affairs Minister, Ernest Kiiza for not intervening in the plight of the victims and seek for them relief assistance such as food and non-food items. 

The report also faults Kiiza for presiding over the Hoima District Security Committee crisis meetings together with Hoima Resident District Commissioner, Kisembo Araali on February 13th, 2019, which sanctioned the army and police to conduct a cordon and search operation to purportedly "flush out a militia or rebel group" in Kyabisagazi village. 

    However, the security officers met stiff resistance from the occupants leading to the death of Police Constable, Vincent Rutaremwa because the operation was a ploy to give Edgar Agaba the disputed land. The committee noted that the Defense and Veteran Affairs State Minister, Charles Okello Engola told them that security agencies screened the residents during the cordon and search operation and ruled out the existence of a militia or rebel group in Kyabisagazi village as earlier reported by Hoima District Security Committee.

 

After conducting a field visit, the committee observed that the cordon and search operation was "merely a conduit for the security agencies to hand over the disputed piece of land to Edgar Agaba, free from encumbrance." Agaba, who is a businessman in Hoima district, is accused of instructing people to destroy the property of the evictees under the watch of UPDF soldiers. 

  The committee concluded that security agencies carried out an illegal eviction under the guise of flushing out a militia or rebel group and that there were high levels of unprofessional conduct of some security personnel including the Commander Field Artillery, Maj. Gen. Sam Okiding. The committee also faulted the Intelligence Officer of the Artillery Division, Maj. Esau Mwembembezi and former Hoima District Police Commander, Twaha Etima who led the eviction exercise. 

The committee has directed the bonafide occupants be reinstated on their land or be compensated. It also recommends that Agaba be prosecuted and that the government takes disciplinary action against police and military officers who participated in the illegal evictions. The committee also notes that government be held liable for the unlawful conduct of its officers and that military and police officers desist from taking sides on land matters. 

The committee argues that the involvement of security officers resulted in the arrest of 75 residents including children, expectant mothers and the elderly, adding that some of the victims died because of the forceful evictions.  The Deputy Speaker, Jacob Oulanyah noted that the select committee report will be debated on a later date.        About the Land dispute 

The select committee observed that disputed land is owned by Agaba, who bought it in 2005 for Shillings 28 million after a one Neko Rukonyongo defaulted on his mortgage he acquired from Uganda Commercial Bank in 1987.

Rukonyongo acquired the disputed land when Uganda Land Commission issued him a lease of 49 years from 1978.  However, majority of the evicted persons told the committee that they have occupied the same piece of land since the 1940s.

 

Agaba confirmed that he found over 600 people living and staying on the land at time he bought it.  He initially allowed them to occupy the land as tenants paying Shillings 50,000 annually in ground rent. However, in 2017, Agaba disagreed with the occupants and when ahead to terminate their tenancy and threatened to evict them. 

The affected residents led by the then LC I Chairman, Simon Achile petitioned the Justice Catherine Bamugemereire Land Commission to intervene. The Commission ordered Agaba not to carry out any activities on the disputed land including boundary opening for six months until the Commission its inquiries. Agaba, according to residents, defied the Commission orders and went ahead to evict them.