Church, district clash over land


Rubanda-A dispute has erupted between the Rubanda District administration and Rubanda Catholic Parish of Kabale Diocese over ownership of an 18-acre piece of land in Mukitojo Village, Nyaruhanga ward in Rubanda Town Council.
The district leadership is bitter that Catholic parish has constructed a church on the land locally known as Kakihuma Hill well aware that it belongs to the government. The church was built two years ago.

The district chairman, Mr Jogo Kenneth Biryabarema, says Kakihuma was gazzetted as government land on December 14, 1985 by the then Rubanda County chief, Mr Charles Rukanyangyira, through the parish chief.

“Kakihuma land also contained the inventory of properties of Rubanda that were handed to the district leadership in July 2016 when it was operationalised,” he says.

He adds: “Anybody else claiming this land should bring proof of ownership because as Rubanda leaders, we have documents confirming that the land belongs to the district.”

However, Buhara Parish priest, Rev Fr Felix Bunimba, 72, says Kakihuma Hill belonged to his grandparents and it is where he was born.

In September 2016, the family members resolved to donate the land to the Rubanda Catholic Parish for the construction of a community church.

Fr Bunimba says the documents the district authorities are presenting as evidence of ownership are mere forgeries.
“I was born on this piece of land in 1946; it’s where I have lived with my parents and grandparents. It was grazing land until 2016 when we decided to give it to the church administration for construction as a way of bringing services nearer to the Christians because family members no longer had animals grazing on the same piece of land,” Fr Bunimba says.

He claims public land at Nyaruhanga was donated to Nyaruhanga Church of Uganda and public land at Ahakashenyi was given to the Muslim community for the construction of a mosque.

Fr Charles Lwanga, who represents the Bishop of Kabale Diocese, Rt Rev Callist Rubaramira, in the Kakihuma land matter, says Mr Aggrey Muramira, the Rubanda District chief administrative officer, has conflict of interest since he is the custodian of the district properties, and that a neutral mediator should be used in the matter.

Fr Lwanga adds: “As the church, we have evidence that this land was donated to us by the family of late Buhurira’s family led by Fr Bunimba and we constructed a church on it. The district leaders were at the opening ceremony and they gave speeches welcoming the religious development. We were shocked that the district leaders started claiming ownership of the land in December 2017 almost a year after the church has been constructed.”

The Resident District Commissioner, Hajj Badru Sebyala, has asked the church and district leaders to stop fueling conflict among community members. He threatened to deploy police on the disputed land.

“Be reminded that living in harmony is the best option because Kabaka Mwanga who murdered Christians also died and joined them in the soil. As religious leaders and followers, let us look at inheriting the kingdom of God instead of fighting for earthly riches that shall be left behind after dying,” he says.

Not property of govt
However, Mr Pastori Twinomuhangi, the former Kabale District speaker and now the councillor for Muko Sub-county in the Rubanda District council, says basing on his knowledge of the area, the land has never been a property of government.

“At least the family members have evidence of ownership of this land because they have been using it customarily for decades and everyone knows it. Documents presented as evidence of ownership by the Rubanda District authorities are forgery because I have been district councillor and district speaker for many years and I have never heard of Kakihuma being government land,” says Mr Twinomuhangi.

He adds: “There is no need of looking for a mediator, let those that claim ownership of the land convene a parish meeting and the community members will tell you the exact owner of this land.”

Ms Agnes Ngabirano, a councillor in Ikumba Sub-county council, says for the 20 years she has served in the capacity, she has never heard claims of government owning Kakihuma land.

Mr Aggrey Muramira, the Rubanda CAO, says the claim that the documents presented by the district authorities as proof for district ownership of the land will be verified by court if the current mediation efforts fail.

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