Catholic Church, Rugendabara Community Clash Over Land

1887 Views Kasese, Uganda

In short
Records at Kasese district land office indicate that the church was not the initial applicant but rather simply transferred the lease from Babiiha to the Diocese of Kasese.

Kasese Catholic Dioceses is feuding with residents of Rugendebera town council over land. The contested land measuring 295 acres is found in Sayuni Lower cell of Rugendabara-Kikongo Town Council in Kasese District.

The land was reportedly donated to Banyathereza Sisters by John Babiha Ngaro in 1969. The Catholic Church leased the land in 1975 for 45 years.

The decision angered residents, who accused the church of sidelining them before the decision to lease the land was reached. They dragged Kasese diocese to High Court in Fort-portal claiming ownership of the land arguing that the land was leased without their knowledge.

High Court ruled in favor of Kasese diocese in 2011 and ordered the eviction of all occupants. Eriya Bwambale Kongomera claims to have stayed on the contested land for more than 60 years. He says that they lost the case because they didn't raise any objection when the land was leased since they were not in the know.

He also said the long distance between Kasese and Fort Portal where the Tooro district headquarters are found was another hindrance. Kasese was part of Tooro at the time. Now, the lease of Kasese diocese is due to expire next year. 

The church has already applied for renewal. But residents say they want the land to revert to them since they are bonafide owners and not squatters.

//Cue in: Eritsuka owe ngagha..."
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"Since the sixties we have been occupying this land, during the Bakonzo-Tooro clashes, a number of people came here and we welcomed them. This is how eventually the sisters even came. Little did we know that they eventually secured a lease for the land in 1974, it is because we did not know about leases because we were still under Tooro district and the administration offices were also far away from us," he said in vernacular.

Luke Kinyere, another resident says for peace to prevail, it is high time the district land office reconsidered renewing the church lease. Kinyere says it is wrong for the district land office to hobnob with people that capitalized on the ignorance of the residents to rob them of their land.


//Cue in: Eritsuka na 1962

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"Since 1962 we were occupants of this land, minister Babiiha was equally cultivating here. But after some time, Babiiha stopped cultivating and gave the land to the Sisters (Banyathereza) but all that time the locals were cultivating on this land. When the land was leased, we were leased within, and that was the beginning of the conflicts. It is my prayer therefore that since the lease is coming to expiry, the land should be returned to the rightful owners."

The contested land hosts about 100 households. Fr. David Kiiza, the Secretary Kasese Catholic Diocese denies any wrong doing on the side of the church. He says the church has all the documents to prove ownership of the contested land and that is why they were in position to win the court case. He also says the church has established quite a number of developments on the land.

Records at Kasese district land office indicate that the church was not the initial applicant but rather simply transferred the lease from Babiiha to the Diocese of Kasese. 

Kasese District Senior Lands Management Officer, Jimmy Baluku says the fact that no complaints were raised during the transfer process makes the church the bonafide owner of the contested land.

//Cue in: I have also been..."
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Uriah Baluku, the Kasese District Land Board Chairperson has revealed that due diligence is going to be done before a new lease is awarded. He has called for calm from both parties as the board works towards resolving the impasse.


Tagged with: rugendabara community

About the author

Kule Jerome Bitswande
Jerome Kule Bitswande is the URN pioneer Bureau Chief-Kasese.

He's passionate to write about public policy, culture and politics.

Before joining URN in April 2018, Jerome had written for Radio One and Two, The Observer and New Vision.

Jerome strongly believes that it is only the common man that has the untold story. And it is that untold story whose narration he wants to be party to.

The two-time Award Winner with Media Challenge Initiative also believes the Kasese and entire Rwenzururu story is yet to be told; it's against that background that when URN assigned him to his cradle, he did not give it a second thought.

Todate, he's fondly called the Rwenzururu Royal Guard by peers and workmates.