KIKUUBE – Kikuube district leaders have intervened into the land wrangle between the residents of Kabwoya sub-county in Kikuube district and Hoima Sugar Company Ltd, an Indian owned company.
The district leaders led by Vincent Alpha Opio, the Kikuube district vice chairman on Thursday last week rushed to Kabwoya sub-county after the residents from the villages of Rwenkobe, Kanyegaramire and Rwembaho invaded the gardens prepared by Hoima Sugar Company Ltd and started planting their crops such as beans, sorghum and maize.
The residents invaded the company gardens two days after they stormed the offices of Kikuube district local government protesting the on-going alleged grabbing of their land by the sugar company.
A group of more than 40 residents led by their Local Council 1 chairperson stormed the district headquarters accusing the company of invading their villages and grading their gardens and homes.
They demanded that the district leadership intervene into their concerns and threatened to take the law into their hands if the latter continues to keep a deaf ear.
After three days without seeing any leader on the ground, the residents turned violent and invaded the gardens prepared by the company and started planting beans, maize and sorghum.
In 2017, Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom offered 22 square miles for a 99-years lease to Hoima Sugar Company Limited, to grow sugarcane.
National Forestry Authority (NFA) dragged Hoima Sugar Company Limited to court challenging the occupancy and claiming that the land was part of Bugoma forest reserve but on 25th April, 2019; Masindi High Court ruled that Hoima Sugar Company Limited was the rightful occupant of the 22 square miles of land.
This ruling resulted into massive protests from the residents and environmental activists across the globe that included European Union (EU) Ambassadors who last year visited the forest and condemned all those behind the destruction of the forest for sugarcane growing.
The National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) denied Hoima Sugar Company Limited 13 square miles and allowed it only nine square miles out of the 21 square miles, which NEMA deemed fit for human activity since it was a grassland (no forest cover).
However, the residents adjusted the land claims against the sugar company using the land allocated by NEMA arguing that the company was instead encroaching on their land.
This forced the district leaders to visit the area and make some directives to the residents and Hoima Sugar Company Ltd to end the standoff.
Speaking to theCooperator, Vincent Opio the district boss explained that the management of Hoima Sugar Company Ltd was ordered to stop all its activities on the contested land.
He added that they also ordered the residents to vacate the gardens prepared by the company to avoid confrontation with security personnels guarding the machines of the company.
According to Opio, the district leaders asked the two parties to give the district two weeks to investigate the matter and ascertain the rightful owner of the contested piece of land.
“We are asking the residents to be patient for two weeks; in these two weeks, we shall request the Ministry of Lands to come and help us open up boundaries in order to know where the land which NEMA allocated to Hoima Sugar Company Ltd starts and ends.”
We do not want anybody to go and destroy the property of the Indians on site and in the same way, the Indians (Hoima Sugar Company Ltd) should not use excessive force and security to harass the residents,” he said.
Opio added that they also ordered Uganda People’s Defense Force (UPDF) officers commanded by a one, Col Morgan Mpeka to stop harassing residents and allow them to access their gardens and water sources.
We found out that the security personnels, who were deployed in the area, were denying residents access to water sources and their gardens. So we ordered them to protect the property of the company and leave the residents to move freely in their villages.
Nicolas Kiiza, Kikuube district Workers Councilor and Secretary for Production warned the residents against taking the law in their hands and demanded that the two parties present documents of the ownership on the contested land.
He added that a committee was formed to investigate the claimed ownership of land between the residents and the Sugar Company.
However, the residents challenged the district leaders to expedite the investigation process claiming that they are not ready to lose even an inch of land the sugar company.
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