Residents of Nakigga, Kasanje and Birinzi in Bukakata sub county, Masaka District who are fearing eviction ahead of Palm Oil Growing project in the area. They were attending a meeting
The planned expansion of the Palm oil growing project has sparked off sharp land disputes in Masaka district. The dispute is pitying close to 1,000 residents of Nakigga, Kasanje, and Birinzi in the Bukakata sub-county, and four people who claim to be the owners of the land hosting the affected people.
The residents accuse the claimants of conniving with elements in Masaka District Land Board to stealthily obtain freehold certificates of ownership on the said land without their knowledge.
They claim that they are now being asked to vacate the land to pave the way for palm oil growing.
Gerald Kyeera, a resident of Nakigga village, one of those facing eviction, says that he has occupied the land for close to 50 years. He, however, says that he was surprised to receive an eviction notice from people claiming the same land.
Kyeera says that their problems began in 2020 when the government identified Masaka as one of the districts where it would expand the National Vegetable Oil Development Project.
He indicates that several people posing as investors have since emerged to claim ownership of big chunks of land in the area with intentions of collaborating with the government in palm oil growing projects.
Moses Kamulegeya, another resident of Kasanje Village indicates that the disputed land measures 780 hectares, which was initially public land.
He, however, says that through unscrupulous means, the current claimants converted it into freehold and obtained titles without the knowledge of the residents who have occupied the same land for decades.
Kamulegeya indicates that despite their status as bonafide occupants who are protected by the law, they have been given a two-month ultimatum to vacate the land.
He says that some of the occupants are being cornered to accept compensation of Shillings 850,000 per acre or else face forceful eviction.
“Their local agents have continued to threaten us with accusations that we are blocking a government project of palm oil growing,” he noted.
Joseph Kintu, the Chairperson of Nakigga village says the businessmen introduced themselves as the rightful owners of the land in the area and that there was no way he could resist them.
In addition to presenting certificates of ownership, Kintu says that businessmen have introduction letters from the office of the Masaka Resident District Commissioner permitting them to open boundaries of the same land.
He reveals that titles of the contested land are registered in the names of Fabiano Matovu, John Mugunga, and Pastor Samuel Kakande, whom he said obtained them through formal procedures.
Teopista Lule Ssenkungo, the Masaka Resident District Commissioner argues that she held several mediation meetings between the landlords and the occupants but some of the residents are reluctant to any negotiations yet they don’t have any documents to explain how they settled on the land.
She explains that the landlords have already entered into a partnership with the government to use the land for palm oil growing and advised the occupants to open up for negotiations.
Ronald Evan Kanyike, the Bukoto East Constituency Member of parliament in Masaka district says that he has formally petitioned higher authorities including the Ministry of Lands, the Speaker of Parliament, and the Buganda Parliamentary Caucus seeking their intervention to protect the rights of residents, whom he says are currently in utter confusion.