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2 Years Down, Rwamutonga Evictees Await Justice

Some of the children in the make shift cap in Rwamutonga. (Photo: F. Mugerwa)

Some of the children in the make shift cap in Rwamutonga. (Photo: F. Mugerwa)

High court Masindi has indefinitely postponed the hearing of the Rwamutonga case where more than 200 families were brutally evicted to pave way for the construction of oil waste treatment plant, Oil in Uganda has learnt.

Justice Albert Rugadya Atwoki, High Court resident judge Masindi was expected to give a ruling on an application on January 19, 2017but informed the court that he would make a ruling on notice.

According to Bashir Twesigye, Executive Director Civic Response on Environment and Development, the judge’s move to make his ruling on notice shows that the judge is not comfortable with the case hence the hesitation to make a decisive ruling.

“Hon. Justice Rugadya should not have any excuse ruling on the case because he has had six months to study the case,” he argued.

“The judge making a ruling on notice means that he will make a decision when he feels ready,” he explained to Oil in Uganda, adding that since the first ruling was done last year, this second ruling would give the evictees a mileage and has been pending for a year.

The families were evicted in August 2014 from the two pieces of land; one titled in the names of Robert Bansigaraho and another in Joshua Tibagwa. The affected families have since been living in Kakoopo Internally Displaced Persons camp (IDP) with no stable  source of livelihood.

Nelson Atich, Bugambe District Councilor  and representative of the evictees told  Oil in Uganda, that they are shocked by the judge’s decision to make the ruling on notice.

“We are now thinking of petitioning the Principal Judge over this matter,” he stated.

“When we went to court on 19th, January, 2017, we were surprised when the clerk to the judge told us that the judge will give us the ruling on notice. We are in a dilemma, but we think we are not getting justice from courts of law,” Atich said.

He further added that the evicted families have been living in a camp for close to three years now under inhuman conditions yet the case has not been given priority,” Atich said.

A section of the displaced residents at a recent meeting in the camp. (Photo: CourtesyGlobal Rights Alert)

A section of the displaced residents at a recent meeting in the camp. (Photo: CourtesyGlobal Rights Alert)

Oil in Uganda has learnt that the court ruling was actually meant to be given on December 8, 2016 but was postponed to January 19, 2017.

Last year, Justice Simon Byabakama, the then resident judge Masindi ,ruled that 53 families out of the 200 families affected were illegally evicted on land owned by Robert Bansigaraho since the eviction court order was issued in error.

Justice Byabakama  in his ruling also ordered Bansingaraho to compensate the evictees for the unlawful eviction.

“The eviction was unlawful and should not have happened in the first place because at the time of the execution of the warrant of vacant possession, there was an ongoing suit to determine true ownership of the land,” ruled Justice Simon Byabakama last year.

The court went ahead to award costs of the application to the residents, but declined to restore them on the land until the main suit was determined.

In their case application, the evictees, through their lawyers Iam Musinguzi of Musinguzi and Co. Advocates and Jonathan Okiria, an advocate with Justice Centers Uganda in Hoima are seeking a declaration that the families  were unlawfully evicted by Tibagwa Joshua and should be awarded compensation.

In November 2016, Betty Amongi, Minister of lands visited Rwamutonga camp and appointed a probe committee to investigate and establish the rightful owners of the disputed land.

According to Isaac Kawooya, Hoima Resident District Commissioner,  the committee finalized its investigations and has submitted a report to the minister.

Report by Edward Ssekika