Individuals riding on American company to re-evict people from land in the oil rich region in Uganda

Hardly a year after, over 250 families gained access to the controversial land at Rwamutonga village in Bugambe sub county Hoima district, the same residents could be evicted again at the hands of people claiming to be employees of Uganda’s state house.

These, yet to be fully identified people  are already reported to be hatching plans to re-evict the former evictees who had started recovering from the shock of the 2014 brutal eviction.

Two businessmen, Joshua Tibagwa and Robert Bansigaraho had, in 2014, struck a deal with an American company, McAlester Energy Resources Limited to lease them land at USD 1.6 Million that saw about 1200 residents flashed out of their homes.

The evictees, majorly comprising of women and children, last year gained access to the land from which they were evicted three years ago .This was after Robert Bansigaraho turned against his business associate and relinquished the title of the land to the affected community claiming he had erroneously titled the land.

Mr. Bansigaraho’s action was prompted by interventions of NGOs like National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) and Justice Centers Uganda that advocated for mediation to help the affected communities.

The evictees have since rushed to court to challenge authenticity of Mr. Tibagwa’s title.
The evictees may however not realize a sustainable normal life on the same land since  a number of people claiming to be working for government have started calling and threatening their leaders to back off the land or they get arrested.

Nelson Atich, a representative of the affected families in court says he has received numerous calls from some of the people who claim to be working with police and statehouse saying they have plans to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment on the land in question for an upcoming project.

“I have received numerous calls, one of them being one, Kiiza Andrew who claims to be from the president’s offices saying he has sent a team of people to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) on Rwamutonga land so that a project takes off but they did not name the project,” Atich told Community Green Radio.

Atich also reveals that leaders of the affected residents have received several threats of plans to be arrested with fabricated charges if they do not back off the court case to allow McAlester access the land.

“There is a plan to have all leaders arrested including me with a scheme of exhausting us with capital offenses so that they weaken the case in court,” he added.

The investor intended to set up an oil waste treatment facility on the land but later pulled out because of the controversy over the said land. However, according to the transaction documents obtained by Community Green Radio, McAlester had advanced Tibagwa USD 300,000 to compensate and relocate residents.

The affected persons remain in dilemma as to whether McAlester have renewed their interest in their land or it’s a ploy by unscrupulous individuals to take their land.

When contacted  on phone, Andrew Kiiza, , a purported official from the President’s office, denied working with statehouse but he only acknowledged working with a government department he was not willing to reveal.
He, however, exonerated state house from meddling into Rwamutonga land conflict saying many politicians are hiding their heads in the soil to benefit from this transaction. He acknowledged calling Atich Nelson but denied the intimidation claims. In his opinion, he said although the Rwamutonga land may seem to belong to the affected communities, court should expedite the litigation process to dig out the truth. He said the two businessmen, Joshua Tibagwa and Robert Bansigaraho duped the investor McAlester and local politicians have grabbed the opportunity to gain political capital from the communities.

 ‘’What is wrong with McAlester accessing that land if the process is legally done??? Why do you want to know where I work on phone? Come to Kampala we link up in my office not on phone….’’Kiiza charged at this journalist before the phone hung up.

Story compiled by Katemburura Robert