Residents of Nyamucengyere village in Kabale have vowed to protect their land with their lives. They claim to have heard of reports that a group of rich people in the district has its eye on the fertile hills of Nyamucengyere and they say are determined to battle it to the death.
Petero Rwakaari, an elder in Nyamucengyere, says residents in the area have had long-standing agreements on the use of the land. He explains that the agreement grants them free land to graze their livestock and cultivation partnerships.
Rwakaari says the group of elite investors intending to grab their land will displace hundreds and strip them of the peaceful co-existence they have with their friends and neighbors.
Joseph Baryamujura, the LC3 chairman of Buhara Sub-County in which Nyamucengyere is located, confirms the rumors of a planned land grab. He says recently some people invaded the land at night and planted pine trees to demarcate their property.
In retaliation the Nyamucengyere residents burned all the grass and uprooted the trees.
Although the act was destructive, Baryamujura praises the villagers for acting decisively to defend their land. He however warns that the land may be sold again unless it is properly utilized.
The LC3 chairman advises that residents use the property to plant trees that they can later sell for timber. He says the trees will also protect the exhausted soil on the hillsides.
Kabale district has one of the highest population density figures in the country. With a booming population, land is in short supply and its ownership is a constant source of conflict.
A 2007 report on the dynamics of social capital in the southwestern highlands of Uganda noted that land grabbing by rich residents or the elite from Kampala is a major problem in the district. It pointed out that most of the land targeted for illegal sale and repossession was in communal grazing areas and hilltops with panoramic views of the mountainous area.
The report called for strict by-laws to be passed by Kabale district council to protect poor communities from this theft.