Over 1,000 residents have been evicted from a contested piece of land in Kapapi 2 village, Kapapi Sub-County in Hoima district.
Residents said the eviction which took place in the wee hours on Sunday left several houses demolished, burnt, property including domestic animals and crops allegedly stolen.
The residents were evicted from two titled pieces of land owned by tycoons based in Hoima and Kampala, respectively.
One of the titles measuring 2,545 acres (1,030 hectares) is owned by six people who include; Gafayo Ndahura, Aston Muhwezi, David Mpora, Monica Rashindika, Wilber Kiiza and Agaba H.
The title also stretches some parts of Kiganja sub-county. Another piece of land measuring about 3 square miles belongs to Moses Asiimwe Byangire, a renowned businessman in Hoima City.
It covers four villages including Waki South, Waki North, Kapapi central and Kiryatete in Hoima district.
Some of the residents have fled to their friends in the neighbourhood and a few are camped at Rwenyana Gospel Church without food, shelter and sanitary facilities.
Moses Semuri who owns four acres in Kapapi central told The Albertine Journal on Wednesday the tormentors raided the village at around 8am, armed with guns and forced them out of their houses.
He alleges they were tortured and some women raped by the men who conducted the eviction.
Ndahura, one of the claimants, said the people were illegally occupying the land, adding that since security has been looking for them on charges of malicious damage, they decided to damage and destroy their houses to create a case against the landlords.
The Resident District Commissioner (RDC) for Hoima, Michael Kyakashari, told a local journalist that the eviction was conducted by private security guards who were sanctioned from Kampala.
“No UPDF or Police officers were involved in the eviction as claimed by the public,” he said, adding that the matter is still under investigation to establish whether it followed the right procedures.
The Albertine Journal has confirmed that the eviction was conducted by Magnum Security who has since erected a roadblock using wooden doors ostensibly plucked out of the demolished houses.
The security firm guards, who denied being brutal during the eviction, could not allow anyone from accessing the land without clearance.
Apollo Kateba of Magnum Security said as a security company they are meant to be supervised by police, noting that had they done anything wrong they would be told to go away.
A source said some factions of herdsmen commonly known as Balaalo who have been renting the land from the landlords did not want to vacate the land prompting a collision with the indigenous-Alurs.
In the past the media has been awash with stories of skirmishes between Balaalo herdsmen and cultivators fighting over cultivation and grazing rights.
This forced the authorities to create a buffer zone to separate cultivators from cattle keepers as a way of solving socioeconomic and tribal clashes that had existed between the two parties since 2004.
A source told The Albertine Journal that the landlords had failed to evict the hitherto resolute tenants, forcing them to lease the land to ‘highly’ connected individuals who with impunity are forcing people off the land.
A resident on condition of anonymity said residents are being arrested on trumped up charges and security ride on their absence from the land to destroy their property.
“Apart from those renting the land some of us who have lived here for years though without proof of ownership. We ‘must’ be compensated and helped with relief items to cope up with life,” said Eria Mulega, a resident of Kapapi as he stared at his demolished house.
Julius Hakiza, the Albertine Region Police Spokesperson could neither deny nor confirm the arrest of residents.
In a twist of events, David Karubanga, the area Member of Parliament (MP) and former State Minister for Public was arrested on Tuesday night on charges of unlawful assembly as he addressed the evictees.
Sources indicates that the area legislator was escorted to his home in the same vicinity before security left his residence a few hours past mid-night.
“If they can arrest an MP like a chicken thief, what about residents?” a resident asked.
Byangire who said he inherited the land from his late father, added that he allowed a few herdsmen to use part of the land and now they want to take it forcefully.