The Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, Hilary Onek, has warned people who are encroaching on Kyangwali Refugee Settlement land, saying there is a wider conspiracy than what ordinarily people see.
In a statement, the minister said that the purported eviction is stage-managed by some people who want to depict his Ministry negatively for their selfish interests.
“The people seen clamoring for land are heavily sponsored to come and lodge at the Office of the RDC, forge stories of eviction, suffering, hunger etc mean while they are being transported, fed well and protected by forces who think such a strategy can arm twist government to whatever their objectives, “he said.
Kyangwali Refugee Settlement was established in 1960 following a land offer by Bunyoro Kingdom on April 20 1960.
There is a copy of the offer to the government, according to Onek.
The offer letter, he said clearly defined the boundaries of the Settlement as Lake Albert on one side, River Nguse on one side, Bugoma Forest Reserve on the other and Kabwoya to Kyangwali road.
Onek said the land the encroachers are claiming to be theirs falls within above boundaries, adding that the people agitating as land owners had encroached land close to River Nguse and Lake Albert which are within the boundary of the settlement.
He explained that the encroachers came on the land post 1995 return of Rwandan refugees and following the 1997/99 attacks by ADF which forced the remaining refugees camp at Kasonga base camp leaving the rest of the land vacant and vulnerable to encroachment.
“Most of the encroachers are from neighboring sub counties of Mpefu and Ruganshari in current Kagadi district. They were resettled there by the government after they were evicted from Mpokya Forest reserve,” he said.
In 2012; following a large influx of refugees from Democratic Republic of Congo through Bundibugyo, Onek said the government decided to settle them in Kyangwali and the encroachers were requested to vacate government land voluntarily and they did so.
“They were remobilised to come back on the land by some local politicians to get votes from them. There have been a number of investigations and reports produced. All these have found Office of the Prime Minister(OPM) to be on the right side of the law, “he said.
In 2016, he said the President directed the then Prime Minister to find a lasting solution to the Kyangwali Problem which had become protracted since 2012. It was then decided that we cede land and settle there on landless encroachers.
“This was concluded in December 2020 and over 10,000 people in 1786 households have been settled on 8 square miles of Kyangwali land. We have a list of beneficiaries, “he said.
Onek said in April 2019 Cabinet approved shs 6.2 billion but this project has not taken off because of sabotage from some leaders in the area who threaten development partners and contractors with violence.
“Government also plans to provide the resettled people with resettlement packages in form of agriculture tools, iron sheets and other building materials and avail a communal land title to the resettled people not to be parceled for 20 years, “he said.
He said the main challenge has been sabotage from bigger encroachers who continue to make false claims to grab and own the refugee land.
He said the government will continue to fight encroachment of refugee settlement land with the assurance that no one in Ugandan be above the law.