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Bamba-Babwisi Communities Seek to Reoccupy Part of Semuliki National Park

The Bamba-Babwisi people occupied about 125 square kilometres of land covering areas near the Saara stream to River Semuliki through River Lamia to the borders of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Some of them settled in areas within Bwamba county within Bundibugyo district.
MPs and researcher visit the Semuliki national park

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Over 10,000 community members of the Bamba- Babwisi tribe in Bundibugyo district have renewed calls for resettlement in the ancestral land from which they were evicted. The land in question was part of Matongo Forest-present-day Semuliki National Park.

The Bamba-Babwisi people occupied about 125 square kilometres of land covering areas near the Saara stream to River Semuliki through River Lamia to the borders of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Some of them settled in areas within Bwamba county within Bundibugyo district.

They were first evicted in 1920 by the colonial government following an outbreak of sleeping sickness in the area. The purpose was to mainly safeguard the population against the outbreak of the epidemic. The land was years later gazetted as a forest reserve.

A second eviction occurred in 1983 by the government of Uganda, then led by Dr Apollo Milton Obote. As a result, some of the Bamba-Babwisi people settled in the DRC, areas around Tokwe Sub-county, parts of Tooro, while others have gone to Hoima and Kasese district among others. 

Now through their association; the Matongo Lost Land Recovery Families Organization, they have petitioned Parliament seeking compensation, relocation to their ancestral land in parts of the current national park or relocation to a place where they can live. They argue that the eviction that led to their displacement contradicts international and national laws that govern the people in their rights and freedom on resettlement and belonging.

Cornelius Bacekuru Iniyabho, the chairperson of the organization says that as a culture and a tribe, they are losing their identity, failing to fend for their families, and scattered across the region. He says personally he is a squatter in a Samaritans land, where he could be ejected as the family grows bigger.

Bacekuru was speaking during a visit by the members of the Natural Resources Committee of Parliament who went to the area to learn more about the controversies surrounding the settlement of Bamba-Babwisi communities. He said they would not participate in the forthcoming general election if their matter is not handled.

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Richard Gafabusa Muhumuza,  the Bwamba County MP says that the evictees have suffered for long and over the past 20 years they have petitioned the government, from the Presidency to the Parliament but nothing has been done to come to their rescue.

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The Bamba Cultural Head, also known as, Omudhingiya wa Bwamba, Martin Ayongi Kamya tasked the government and the Parliament to listen to the cries of the Bamba, describing them as a time bomb for the country.

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Committee chairperson Keefa Kiwanuka said that the communities have a genuine concern, which needs urgent attention. He added that they hope to draft a report and make recommendations to parliament on the future of the community.

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