Ruhinda Residents protest eviction from wetlands

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November 24, 2023    By Country Radio   

Ruhinda Residents protest eviction from wetlands

Rukungiri: Residents from Ruhinda Sub-county in Rukungiri District are accusing the district officials of evicting them illegally from their ancestral land.

Recently, Rukungiri district officials majorly the NEMA and law-enforcement officers evicted over 100 residents from areas demarcated as wetlands. These said that they were implementing the presidential directive on restoration of wetlands.

Previously President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni directed the Internal Security Organization (ISO) and other local authorities, including parish chiefs, sub-county chiefs, Resident District Commissioners and chief administrative officers to ensure strict protection of wetlands by evicting those who have encroached on them. 

However in protesting move against their eviction, residents from the villages of Kashenyi, Nkanga, Rwoya, Kabare and Butagatsi in Ruhinda sub-county say they own different pieces of land under customary tenure-which is one of the Constitutionary recognised land tenure systems in Uganda.

These through their lawyer Arinaitwe Peter of Arinaitwe Peter and company Advocates in a letter dated 21st November 2023 are now requesting for clarification over the matter from the offices of the NEMA Rukungiri branch, GISO Ruhinda and the Sub-County LCIII chairperson.

Residents say they have lived all their life on the said wetland and it is from where they have been deriving survival as peasant farmers.

They accuse the district authorities and law enforcers of demolishing their houses and destroying gardens including coffee, trees and banana plantations causing immeasurable loss.

Residents through their lawyers stated that they never received a written notice to vacate the said wetlands so that they can harvest their crops in accordance with the rules of natural justice.

They are now demanding for a written response within two days and an immediate halt to evictions until the issues they have raised are handled.

However in response to the residents’ accusations, the district authorities insisted that the evictions were done legally and asked the aggrieved residents to seek clarification from the relevant offices.

The Rukungiri District senior community Development officer who is also the mobilizer for wetland restoration program Twesigomwe JohnBosco said that they undertook all the required steps before carrying out eviction operation including informing and sensitizing the people in addition to holding the  stakeholders meetings with sub-county leadership comprising of LCI’s, LCII’s, the sub-county chair person and NGOs. He further stated that they held a meeting with residents before eviction was done. 

Twesigomwe disputed allegations that they destroyed the residents gardens but was quick to clarify that it is only the targeted trees that were cut down as it was agreed with residents during the pre-eviction meeting.

He said residents have up to February 2024 to harvest their gardens and beyond the agreed time, forceful means shall be applied to those who shall have remained defiant. Twesigomwe also said that the affected residents are set to get the alternative income from the government but only after leaving the wetlands.

Cue in…Johnbosco RR…

The Rukungiri District Senior Environmental Officer and Wetland Restoration program Focal Person Caroline Mbabazi reasoned that Uganda’s 1995 constitution empowers the local governments to protect the environment including wetlands. She urged Ugandans to respect the law by protecting the wetlands.

Cue in…Mbabazi on laws RR…

The Rukungiri Resident District Commissioner Stephen Bewayo Nsubuga informed Ruhinda residents that district authorities are prepared to implement president Museveni’s directive on restoration of wetlands and vowed to proceed with operations targeting wetland encroachers in the district.

He however asked the environmental officers to sensitize residents continuously through media houses before carrying out eviction operations.

Cue in RDC on Ruhinda wetlands LUG…

Officials are extending wetland restoration programme to the areas of Kanyankyende, Kirundo, Nyakihanga, Rwamugoma, Nyakanyinya and Kashenyi, all in Ruhinda sub-county.

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