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Land Allocation Conflict Unfolds in Nakasongola District Over Forest Reserve Settlements

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Land Allocation Conflict Unfolds in Nakasongola District Over Forest Reserve Settlements
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Tensions escalate in Nakasongola district as local leaders reject the directives issued by the State Minister for Lands concerning the settlement of people on the Kyarubanga forest reserve.

Back in December 2019, President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni had authorized the degazettement of the Kyarubanga Forest reserve in Nakasongola district to accommodate landless households. At the time of the approval, approximately 400 households had already occupied a section of the land.

Spanning eight square miles, the forest reserve spans four sub-counties, including Nakitoma, Lwabiyata, Lwampanga, and Nabiswera. However, conflict has arisen between the original inhabitants and the newly resettled households, primarily regarding the land’s distribution.

On the 19th of October, 2023, Lands State Minister Sam Mayanja, in collaboration with some settlers and district leaders, convened at Nakayonza trading center in Lwabiyata sub-county to address the contentious issue.

During the meeting, Minister Mayanja clarified President Museveni’s directive, emphasizing that the land should be allocated to households already residing there rather than accommodating new settlers.

Moreover, Minister Mayanja dissolved a committee intended to resolve land distribution conflicts and instead called upon the State House Anti-Corruption unit to investigate district officials regarding the matter.

Subsequently, District and Sub-county leaders have vehemently opposed the implementation of Minister Mayanja’s directives, alleging that his decisions have intensified tensions and were made without proper consultation.

Jamirah Nakiyimba, the Vice LC 3 Chairperson of Lwampanga town council, revealed that in addition to the households already settled in the area, the district had resolved to resettle other landless individuals affected by floods and evictions.

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Nakiyimba emphasized that, in her town council, 360 households were displaced by floods, and only 36 households have been relocated to the forest reserve. The leaders expressed shock at Mayanja’s direction to allow only a few households to occupy the extensive land, leaving others in the community displaced.

Livingstone Mwesigye, the LC 3 Chairperson of Wabinyonyi sub-county, claimed that during the meeting, the Minister had favored one side and made a biased decision.

Mwesigye further asserted that Mayanja had failed to consult with the Resident District Commissioner and District leaders before issuing the directives, aggravating tensions between the conflicting settlers.

Additionally, Mwesigye demanded that Minister Mayanja apologize to Public Service Minister Muruuli Mukasa for allegedly making unverified statements, insinuating his involvement in grabbing people’s land.

Sam Kigula, the LC 5 Chairman of Nakasongola district, emphasized that President Museveni’s directive aimed to rectify historical injustices, particularly addressing the plight of the Baruuli community with limited land and forced displacement to Lake Kyoga shores.

Kigula anticipated the resettlement of approximately 2,000 households. He stressed that any grievances about allocations would be addressed by the committee as per the district’s resolution.

However, Bernard Kirya, the Budyebo County Member of Parliament, defended Minister Mayanja’s decision, alleging that the district leadership had wrongfully allocated the land.

Kigula further expressed that the District Security Committee had arranged for policemen to patrol villages daily to prevent further clashes after three individuals were injured and houses were burnt following Minister Mayanja’s directives.

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