“From shrub ridden trolls to suburban terrain…,” narrates Ben Nuwagaba, son to the Kibale game reserve evictees.
Every time, Ben Nuwagaba, a son to one of the victims of Kibale game reserve eviction victims reflects about the experiences shared by his father of the incidents, tears fill his eyes. A 22 years old narrates as per the knowledge he holds of this story.
Due to the nature preservation ordinance attended to between 1923 and 1953 by itinerary colonialists, settlers, who had run away from Kabale due to the increasing population and majorly the Rwanda revolt of 1984, were to be evicted from the fertile hedges in the proceeding years.
The Obote II comeback in a twilight dilemma could not manage the completion of lawful evacuation as the clever resented to voluntary shifts from the game reserve preferring to label these by far instructors as barking dogs that seldom bite.
It is un fortunate to tell though that an operation led by the prosecutors of the had been victor after the diemma barely another decade past warning (1992) in scarcity of machines predicted to have been squandered in the bush war and well aware of naivety of the subjects’ defense fare, they resorted to fire setting the whole settlement ablaze in which the grass thatched abodes eased the operation.
Ben analogically puts this as, “scorch the earth the weary and awareness of occupants for flight with certainty”. Many that had remained took action now to the self-preservation in regret of the worthy property. Ascertaining the to-do from the situation, many went for the sparse Bunyoro chunks in Bugangaizi while a handful slid to east of the evacuated land in Ntara-Kitagwenda. Ben’s father and relatives are part of the discrete families that sought a new lifestyle in Ntara in the disputed boundaries of Ankole and Tooro.
Patience Tumujune, a fourth year law student at Kampala International University says that Uganda has a unique way of handling refugees in that it opens doors of relative freedom of movement, access to formal education and health care, right to work and other basic social services to the refugees. This has then given descriptions of refugee liberty as most would say of the existing experience in Uganda. “My father bought land with the little fortune he ran with where he settled and started a new chapter,” Ben says.
“Basically, refugees in Uganda have freedom for instance they are given chunks of land for cultivation to feel at home,” adds Patience. The refugee law passed in 2006 in its sense acts as a model of laws in Africa for it handles each and everything as it gives freedom to refugees in one of its wings. The Kibale evictees reflect this picture in account that they are being given back what they lost in days of yore monetarily by the government though they continuously argue it can never equalize with the former.
“They seem to have forgotten all the agony they have been through because smiles can now be traced on their once loose faces,” says Mrs. Joan Asiimwe who has worked with several refugee camps and humanitarian agencies in Uganda like Bidi Bidi camp in the north, Rwamwanja refugee settlement under UNHCR.
“He told me, they used to feed and secure Museveni during the bush war little knowing he would foster misery onto them thereafter,” Ben narrates. Their eviction followed Museveni’s rise to power who on the verge to fulfil the former presidents’ directives was left with none but to send military troops which set the entire settlement ablaze. However, he has brought it to light by consoling them with repayments under his government while painting himself white that he had to adhere to the orders he inherited from Obote II’s office.
Ben’s father and other evictees have lived a fit-to-say progressive life in lieu of determination. “He has sent me and other over twenty siblings to receive letters of alphabet, he owns a quarter of the buildings in Ntara town and more so, taken care of three wives and the many dependents,” Ben says. One by one has been their drive over the years and with solid enthusiasm, they strive for betterment against all odds.
These families nonetheless seem to have set off reconstruction along the minute settlers of 1926, pro-independence shifts and their own tribes folk in anticipation to continue that ‘sympathy with life’. But after all, there, they do habitation or rehabilitation for now more than a silver jubilee though exclamations come up from the royal intrigues (Tooro) and some disgusts from the so ‘first occupants’ well unaware of the ‘global village’.
While sharing his knowledge, Ben portrays confidence engulfed in feelings of condemnation of Uganda judiciary but again admits to some extent what was done was righteous. His prayer of all this experience summed up is to see the tail of the repayment process in good though he contemplates it never will be worth the lost property. From shrub ridden trolls to suburban terrain, they do well as regards self-emancipation from the ‘ties of grace’ due to nature’s spiraling.
Story Produced during the Inter-University Media challenge
By Derrick Asaba
Kampala International University