BUSIA: Lands Ministry tasked to sensitive locals on land rights

The parliamentary committee of the Alliance on Food and Nutrition Security had visited the district on a fact-finding mission following complaints about the effects of the gold mining activities in Busia.

Some committee members(MPs) interacting with locals during fact finding visit in Busia

BUSIA, UGANDA: The  Uganda Parliamentary Alliance on Food and Nutrition Security in partnership with OXFAM have called for intervention by the Ministry of Lands into the irregular sale of land to non-citizens in gold mining areas of Busia district.

This according to them has seen locals sell their land to people who later sell it to gold mining investors at higher costs something which has not only left many people landless but also exposed them to several risks arising from the gold mining activities.

The parliamentary committee of the Alliance on Food and Nutrition Security had visited the district on a fact-finding mission following complaints about the effects of the gold mining activities in Busia.

The MPs were led by Hon Milton Muwuma, the alliance chairperson, Hon Hanifah Nabukeera, the Woman MP of Mukono district, Hon Veronica Nanyondo, the woman MP for Bukomansimbi district, among others. They noted that the land is being sold without following appropriate procedures and they end up complaining.

“It’s illegal for foreigners to come and buy land. The procedure is there when a foreigner wants to buy land i.e. leasing the land to them, among others. I encourage you to know the law about land and I call upon you to register your land such that it can have value,” Hon Nabukeera said.

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Committee members meeting Wagagai mining company officials in Busia

Area leaders say mining activities have exposed locals to health risks such as cancer since water sources have been contaminated by chemicals used in the mining process.

Joseph Eluma Mulimi the Buyanga subcounty LC3 Chairman said most Ugandans sold off their land to Kenyan investors claiming that their children will buy theirs and instead resorted to marrying off young women besides drinking all the money. He adds that selling land in the area by locals has left locals with no other option for carrying out agricultural activities in the area.

Leaders from Busitema sub-county said most of their colleagues connive with Kenyan investors to secure documents from the office of the resident district officer in order to buy land instead of going through the normal procedures.

The leaders said the manner in which most companies are carrying out mining activities in the area pauses a great risk to residents since people are exposed to a high risk of contracting cancer besides animals dying.

Leaders further said most locals are drinking water contaminated with chemicals used in the mining of gold, a move that puts their lives at risk. They also accused the management of Wagagai mining company of using hazardous chemicals that are harmful to humans and animals.

Locals from Buyanga Sub-county while in a meeting with committee members and Oxfam officials

However, the MPs proceeded to meet the management of Wagagai mining company who denied the claims which were raised saying they are in good condition with the communities and that they haven’t heard about the issue raised by the committee.

According to research conducted by Oxfam International, they had received numerous complaints from members of the public about the manner in which land was being sold off in Busia to Kenyan investors.

The lands rights coordinator of Oxfam Jimmy Ochom said it’s absurd that the Ministry of Lands had failed to sensitize locals on the rights of land in Busia district despite having a big budget allocated to the same cause. Ochom adds the ministry has also failed to sensitize locals on land rights despite several complaints about irregular land sales.

Members of Parliament resolved that the lands ministry should better sensitize locals about the right to safeguard their land instead of being exploited by Kenyans.

A group photo of committee members after meeting Wagagai mining company officials

The meeting was attended by among others the chief administrative officer for Busia district Mr. Mukibi Nasser who says they face a challenge with border tribes where someone could be having both national identity cards of Kenya and Uganda given the fact that many people have families across the border.

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