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.
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
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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
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.