At least 100 families are sleeping in cold thickets in Lwemiyaga Sub County, Sembabule district after their houses were set ablaze in an attack that left one person dead.
The incident happened on December 7 at Kasunga village in Lwemiyaga Sub County, when armed police officers raided the area, and forcefully evicted the families, from a one square mile piece of land, claimed by a businessman Geoffrey Makumbi.
Makumbi allegedly secured an eviction order from Masaka High Court to expel the pastoralist families which he accused of illegally settling on his family land.
During the ensuing scuffle, 18-year-old George Tarinyebwa was shot and killed, while his father Benon Tuhureirwe and another relative George Byesanuka were injured and are hospitalized in Sembabule. The families had put up a spirited fight to stop the eviction but were overpowered by armed police officers. Fifteen (15) houses were set ablaze and at least 50 goats and 4 cows stolen.
Days after the destruction of their properties, the pastoralists are stranded, spending nights in nearby bushes with no food and water.
Jovia Ruhande, a mother of six, whose house was razed during the eviction says she is enduring cold nights with a 2-month-old baby. She says all their food, clothing and beddings were burnt in the destroyed house.
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Allen Arinaitwe, a mother of four is also sharing a space in the thicket with Jovia Ruhande. She says her child is at risk of catching pneumonia because of sleeping outside. She explains that the weather gets extremely cold at night. Arinaitwe says that her entire banana plantation was destroyed. She now has no food, no shelter, no access to clean water and no medication.
70-year-old Joyce Turirondwa, the grandmother of George Turinyebwa, the teenager who lost his life in the scuffle says she lost everything in her burnt grass-thatched house. She now sleeps in the open space next to her destroyed house alongside her 5 grandchildren.
Last week, Inspector General of Police General Edward Kale Kayihura rushed to the scene and ordered the arrest of all police officers involved in the eviction and destruction of property. He also provided some tarpaulin for the affected families to erect temporary shelters.
However, these tarpaulins have not been utilized. The affected families fear that the attackers could again raid and torch them.
Henry Baguma, the Sembabule Resident District Commissioner has blamed the police for executing the eviction without notifying his office. He says the security committee never approved the eviction. He says he has since stopped any sort of eviction unless it is sanctioned by his office.
Geoffrey Makumbi, who claims ownership of this land, has declined to show any court order issued to evict the families saying it is not for media publicity.