Basongora pastoralists under their organisation, Busunga Cattle Keepers Association, have rejected a government survey report about a contested piece of land that has pitted the community against the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA).
The Basongora, who own land in Busunga village in Kasese district accuse UWA officials from the Queen Elizabeth National Park of erecting boundary pillars on their community land.
UWA, on the other hand, contends that the community grabbed a piece of land from the Queen Elizabeth national park.
According to Ibrahim Magemeso, a surveyor in the Ministry of Lands, the survey found that the park intruded onto community land 100 meters from the main road, while the community encroached on park land 300 meters from River Nyamugasani.
However, the Basongora community members in attendance rejected the report’s findings and accused the UWA officials of witch hunt and suppression.
Boaza Kafuda, a former MP for Busongora County South remarked that a consensus had in the past been reached after discussions involving the minister and other stakeholders, that the status quo should remain since the community had taken some of UWA’s land and UWA had done the same to theirs.
“The intention was to arrive at a win-win situation for all involved. Now this is going to take us back to square one. We want this land issue to be resolved once and for all,” he said.
James Kanamura, a pastoralist, revealed that the community has a history of fights with Kasese district and UWA, starting way back in 1998- three years after they acquired the land title over the same land.
“We got a land title of 803 hectares in 1995 under our group, the Busunga Cattle Keepers’ Association. In 2001, UWA came in and put up boundary pillars that have kept changing time after time,” he said, adding, “When we wanted to process a freehold title in 2010, we were told that the land in question belongs to UWA.”
John Makombo , the Director Conservation, UWA, who led the UWA team told this reporter that the community alleged that the surveyor had been compromised by government,
“We have agreed that they [pastoralists] should identify their own independent surveyor, and government also looks for one so that the boundaries are re-opened as per their original marks of 1952. This process should take place between today and mid August,”he said.
However, Kasese RDC, Lt. Joe Walusimbi, who chaired the meeting appealed to the community to agree to accept the outcome of the proposed boundary re-opening exercise.
“We shall first make a covenant with you and your surveyor that whatever comes out of the exercise will be accepted by you people. We do not want to waste time by repeating this process,” he said.
The proposed boundary opening comes at a time when UWA wanted to erect an electric fence around the park as a way to check wildlife-human conflicts, in line with a presidential directive on the same .
Last month UWA re-opened the boundaries of a contested area in Lake Katwe –Kabatooro Town Council where some blocks of Katwe secondary school, as well as some roads in the town council, were found to be in the National Park.
In 2007 the Government allocated land to Basongora pastoralists who had camped in Queen Elizabeth National Park after being evicted from Virunga National Park in Congo, but todate disputes between the pastoralists and cultivators continue to rage.
Furida Sibiyano, a resident of Busunga asked government to provide an alternative for members of the Basongora community in the area since they have nowhere else to go.
“I was born here, married here and my children have grown up on this land. I have nowhere to go if I am sent away,” Sibiyano said.