Security and Hoima district officials spent the better part of Monday afternoon engaging over 200 people accused of invading a disputed piece of land in Rwamutunga village in Kabwoya Sub County. The dispute pits Justus Tibagwa who claims to be the legitimate owner of the land measuring 1600 hectares against residents, mostly of Alur origin.
Most of the residents are settlers in the Internally Displaced People's camp in the neighboring village following their eviction two years ago. On Monday, the Internally Displaced Persons raided the disputed land and evicted Tibagwa's employees before they started clearing the land to erect houses.
They accuse Tibagwa of illegally evicting them from their ancestral land, where most of them were born. However, Tibagwa says the claimants were only tenants on his lands. On Monday afternoon, Isaac Kawooya the Hoima Resident District Commissioner led a team of security officials to the disputed land to ease the tension between the residents and Tibagwa.
According to Kawooya, they received information from Tibagwa accusing residents of evicting his workers, taking away his 600 cows and destroying his property. The residents were reportedly armed with arrows, clubs, hoes and machetes, which they used to threaten Tibagwa's workers and private guards they found on the disputed land.
According to Kawooya, police worked jointly with Uganda People's Defense Forces-UPDF to disarm the angry residents and set them free at around 4pm. However, four other residents were taken to Hoima Central Police Station in connection with the disappearance of a short gun from one of the guards.
Police also picked up Joseph Opida, the private guard who was assigned the missing gun. During the meeting with the residents, Kawooya urged them to remain in the IPD camp as they pursue their case of land grabbing against Justus Tibagwa.
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Muzamir Shumade, one of the affected residents accuses Tibagwa and his guards for faking the disappearance of 600 cows and a gun in order to incriminate them. According to Shumade, they decided to reclaim the land despite the court case, because Tibagwa defied a court order suspending all activities on the disputed land.
Dan Muhairwe, the Buhaguzi Member of parliament disagreed with the decision of the security committee to arrest the residents.
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However, the RDC and Able Kyoto, the Officer in charge of Hoima Central Police Station insisted that the suspects have to be interrogated on the whereabouts of the cattle and short gun.
A search for the missing cows led to the discovery of 10 head of cattle that were grazing far away from the disputed land. Kadiri Kirungi, the Hoima District LC 5 Chairperson, says there is need to find out the actual number of cows that were on the farm during the raid not to implicate the group.
Tibagwa says he is ready to reach an out of court settlement with the residents so long as they cooperate.