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Bunyoro Kingdom in bloody land clashes

Edgar Kanogoro was injured in the clashes (Photo: F. Mugerwa)

Edgar Kanogoro was injured in the clashes (Photo: F. Mugerwa)

More than 70 houses were burnt and several people injured when violence broke out last week between Bunyoro Kingdom loyalists and inhabitants of Kaseeta Parish, Kabwooya Sub-county in Hoima, over the control of a seven square mile piece of land bordering the proposed refinery area.

The disputed land is being claimed by Bunyoro Kingdom from squatters that Kingdom officials claim are of Congolese origin.

According to locals, the fighting was sparked off following an invasion by subjects of the King of Bunyoro, His Majesty Solomon Gafabusa Iguru, who allegedly came to evict the ‘foreigners.’

“We saw hundreds of Banyoro coming with pangas and they began slashing our gardens and burning our houses,” 52-year old Kerefa Kisiano narrated to told Oil in Uganda. To protect their property, the locals fought back.

However, other reports indicate that the Kingdom had organised a meeting in the area that the King was expected to attend to discuss redistribution of the land, but locals mobilised and ambushed the Kingdom’s advance team.

Besides the houses that were destroyed, a community school was also burnt and an unspecified number of livestock killed or looted.

The King’s men

According to the Deputy Prime Minister of Bunyoro Kingdom, Francis Sewante, the land belongs to the Kingdom and has been the King’s hunting ground for decades.

“That land in Rwengabi has been a hunting ground for the King of Bunyoro for many years and these people started to encroach on it because they heard that the oil refinery is going to be constructed there,” he explained to Oil in Uganda in a phone interview.

Eager to cash in on oil activities, Kingdom officials had successfully persuaded the King to distribute the land amongst his subjects for them to set up income generating projects to service the oil industry.

Besides bordering the proposed refinery area, the land is also strategically located about 30 kilometres away from the Waraga, Nzizi and Mputa oil wells.

“The King decided to distribute this land to his subjects but yesterday when we went to the site, we were attacked by a group of Congolese squatters who say that the land belongs to them.”

The Kingdom’s Lands Supervisor, Joseph Twegonze, who was part of the team, said they were shocked when the locals violently turned them away for ‘trespassing’ on the land.

“The encroachers were armed with stones, arrows and spears,” he said. “They threw stones at us, leaving some injured and cautioned the King not to visit the land.”

One of the casualties was Edgar Kanogoro, the Kigorobya Town Council Speaker, who sustained injuries on the head.

Keeping guard: Police was called in to stop the fighting. (Photo: F. Mugerwa)

Keeping guard: Police was called in to stop the fighting. (Photo: F. Mugerwa)

Arrests

Police immediately deployed and calmed the situation, arresting five people and detaining them at Hoima Central Police Sation.

According to the Hoima District Police Commander, Bernard Akankwasa , the suspects under detention are Raphael Eribankya, the Kingdom’s Works Minister; Abu Busobozi and Monday Margret, both local Councillors; one Joseph Bamusoni and  Kimera Mustafa.

Land wrangles are on the rise in Bunyoro sub-region following the discovery of commercially viable oil deposits there.

Another land case involving the violent eviction of over 200 families from a 700 hectare chunk of land in Rwamutonga village, Hoima District is still in Court.

According to a recent research conducted by the Uganda Land Alliance, land lease applications in Hoima have been increasing since the discovery of oil, from just 14 in 2005 to 1,234 in 2008 as more people look to tap into the country’s oil and gas industry.

Report by Beatrice Ongode, additional reporting by our Hoima Correspondent

editor@oilinuganda.org