By Jim Kalyesubula
The Director of the Indigenous Baruuli and Banyara Reparations Agency (IBBARA) John Baptist Kukkiriza has said that most of the indigenous Banyoro people of Uganda are supportive of President Yoweri Museveni’s clarion call to have the Buganda Mailo Land Tenure System reformed or scrapped.
Mr Kukkiriza echoed his support for the President’s in Buganda as he led a ten man delegation of Bunyoro Kitara Reparations Agency (BUKITAREPA) members, respectively to the palace of the Ssaabaruuli of Obukama bwa Buruuli at Kukibira village, Nakasongola Town Council in Nakasongola district on Wednesday.
The members had gone to meet the Ssaabaruuli of Obukama bwa Buruuli Mwogezi Butamanya to brief him about the two Associations’ work to liberate Bunyoro Kitara land that the British gave to the Baganda, Nubians and Indians as a reward after defeating Omukama Kabarega in 1894.
John Baptist Kukkiriza says that the British colonialists made the Banyoro squatters on their land with just a strike of the pen on paper when they gave huge tracts of Bunyoro land to Buganda which he says is a great historical injustice.
“Giving away the land of the indigenous Banyoro to the Baganda marked the beginning of the suffering from land displacement of the Banyoro. The Banyoro became squatters on what was originally their land which eventually led to massive impoverishment because with no land rights and ownership, the absent Baganda land lords are selling off land to new land lords who end dispossessing Banyoro from their Bibanja’’, Kukkiriza explains.
Mr. Kukkiriza says that during the British colonialists’ campaign to subjugate the Banyoro 2.4 million lives were lost for whom they also want reparations from the British.
“Not only did Bunyoro lose land but lost up to about 2.4 million people who were mercilessly killed by the British colonial invaders and their collaborators”, Kukkiriza says adding that they need compensation for the denial of their land rights.
The Director of Operations BUKITAREPA Solomon Muhumuza says it is very logical for all right thinking indigenous Banyoro to give moral and practical support to the President who has come out to join them in their decades long fight for their land and political rights in Uganda.
“When you are crying and someone comes out to cry with you, you cry loudest. Recovery and repossession of vast areas of Bunyoro – Kitara land from the clutches of Buganda under which it was placed by the 1900 Buganda Agreement is our sole responsibility,” Muhumuza says.
The Katikkiro of Obukama bwa Buruuli Kasirye Samuel says that the official position of Obukama bwa Buruuli is scrapping of the Mailo Land system that gifted Buganda land that was not legitimately due to them.
“Our people have suffered so much for a very long time. We want a solution for the current land impasse that will grant us total ownership rights on our land. We will then use under a customary land tenure system”, Kasirye explains
The Ssabaruuli of Buruuli Mwogezi Butamanya revealed that he is not very comfortable to lead a landless Obukama and wants the Mmengo establishment to amicably give up land which does not belong to it legitimately for peaceful co-existence with the rest of the ethnicities in Uganda.
Mwogezi Butamanya says that: “the Baruuli and other indigenous Banyoro do not have a grudge against the Baganda since Banyoro know the Baganda were misled by the British. Banyoro are perturbed by the desire of some people in the Mengo Establishment to perpetually cling to the land which they wrongly acquired.”
If the Baganda think that the Mailo Land Tenure System and all it’s encumbrances is good for them, a modality can be worked out to have it only functional within the borders of Buganda because the Banyoro, Baruuli and Banyara dislike the Mailo Land Tenure System, Ssabaruuli Mwogezi Butamanya adds.
Sunday Vision on August 8, 2021 quoted Museveni expressing the desire to solve Buganda’s land problems associated with Buganda’s Mailo Land Tenure System once and for all. The Kabaka was not pleased that it was only Buganda’s land in question and the two leaders subsequently held a private meeting at Nakasero State House. Bunyoro – Kitara’s land problems started when the kingdom lost a war against British imperialism at the end of the 19th century in which the Baganda were collaborators.
The main objective of BUKITAREPA and IBBARA respectively, is the recovery and repossession of the vast areas of land in Bunyoro – Kitara Kingdom specifically Kakumiro, Kibaale, Kagadi, Hoima, Buliisa, Masindi and Kiryandongo, and the vast areas of land belonging to the Baruuli and Banyara in Buruuli, Nakasongola, Luweero and Nakaseke and Bugerere. Bunyara most of the above areas lying South of River Kafu.
The Banyoro say, unfortunately for them and fortunately for the Baganda; that Col. Colville donated the above mentioned tracts of land to Buganda Kingdom as a reward for Buganda’s collaboration when the British were fighting Omukama Kabalega of Bunyoro – Kitara Kingdom who vehemently resisted British Imperialism. This made the Banyoro who were the original owners of the land to become squatters on their ancestral land because the titles to the land in those areas are being held by the absentee Buganda Landlords or the people to whom the Baganda subsequently sold the land.
Whether or not the Proposed Land Amendment Bill will cure most of the historical land rights for which it is being introduced remains to be seen.
Explaining the rationale behind the Proposed Land Amendment Bill, Uganda’s Premier Robinah Nabbanja said that it will provide for payment of dues by a kibanja holder (bona fide land occupant) while protecting the rights of the mailo land owner.
“The Land Amendment Bill will also provide for payment of ground rent (busuulu) through the sub-county where the mailo landowner is unavailable to receive payment” Nabbanja says.
On the other hand however, this is not the mindset of IBBARA and BUKITAREPA, the two organizations fighting for the political and land rights of the Indigenous Banyoro in Uganda.
“Legitimacy overrides legality” says Muhumuza whenever asked about what would be the acceptable land rights and ownership settlement for the indigenous Banyoro. The Indigenous Banyoro peoples of Uganda include the Banyoro, Baruuli and Banyala among others.
The current land problems in Buganda are a direct consequence of the 1900 Buganda Agreement. Though political, one of the most salient features of the Agreement was the sub division of Buganda land into Mailo land with recipients acquiring ownership perpetually.
Under clause 15 of the agreement, land was divided between crown land for the protectorate government and Mailo land for Buganda government.
Within Buganda, the agreement further divided the land share into royal family land, the Lukiiko land, chiefs land, while some was left for the private mailo landowners. It should however be noted that some of the sub divided land belonged to defeated kingdoms and chiefdoms like Bunyoro, Buruuli and Bunyara, respectively; some of whose land the Agreement placed under Buganda’s control.
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