Kampala- The African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) of the African Union is investigating accusations that the Ugandan government committed mass violations of human rights of the indigenous people of Bunyoro.
The complaint was filed by Bunyoro Kitara Reparations Agency (Bukitarepa) on behalf of aggrieved people on November 13, 2017. It is signed by the NGO’s chief coordinator, Mr Doviko Batwale.
The petitioners also allege that the native Banyoro have been marginalised and deprived of their ancestral land and other entitlements, a claim government dismisses.
The petitioners want ACHPR to refer the case to a tribunal of the African Court of Human and People’s Rights in Arusha, Tanzania.
They are seeking compensation for the damage caused and eviction of non-indigenous people from Bunyoro.
In response, the ACHPR secretary, Dr Mary Maboreke, asked Mr Batwale to submit evidence and arguments in support of the petition within 60 days.
“The African Commission finds that the complainant reveals prima facie violation of the African Charter (on Human and People’s Rights),” Dr Maboreke noted in his August 23 response which Daily Monitor has seen.
The ACHPR said the petition will not be referred to the court until investigations into the allegations have been concluded.
Dr Maboreke said the decision was taken during the ACHPR Extraordinary Session in the Gambian Capital, Banjul, between July 30 and August 8 this year.
Yesterday, Mr Batwale said: “We had attached part of the evidence on the petition but we were advised the African Commission does not work like that. So, we are about to be done with the evidence and we will present it starting Monday next week.”
The Bukitarepa allege that the maginalisation policies of the British against Bunyoro during the colonial have remained under government’s watch, leaving victims suffering socially, economically and politically.
They allege massive land grabbing of Banyoro’s ancestral land through creation of illegal settlements for migrants Bakiga, Bafumbira, Banyankore and Rwandans without compensating the indigenous Banyoro owners in accordance with Article 26 of the Constitution.
The petitioners allege that after the discovery of oil and gas and other mineral reserves in Bunyoro, the government issued “illegal land titles” in favour of State House personnel, senior army officers and other high profile personalities at the disadvantage of the indigenous people.
They contend that with the creation of new districts in the area, the government has converted the political power of the indigenous people to the “migrants” locally known as bafuruki who outnumber the native Banyoro.
They say the bafuruki have dominated elective positions from the grassroots to the district and for parliamentary representatives at the exclusion of the indigenes.
They further contend that the “immigrant” languages are taught in local schools which has led to cultural erosion.
The government spokesperson, Mr Ofwono Opondo, yesterday said the complaints are misplaced because it is constitutional for all Ugandans to freely and peacefully settle in any part of the country by lawfully acquiring or renting of land.
“Over the years, there are many people, not just Bakiga, but Bagisu, Baganda and different ethnicities who have moved to legally settle in Bunyoro and other parts of the country unless Bukitarepa has specific individuals whose land was confiscated by government. They can raise this matter with the Ugandan courts,” Mr Opondo said.
He added that for the case of oil and gas-affected land owners, at least 98 per cent of the bona fide claimants have been fully compensated except for the cases which are pending in courts.
In the petition, Bukitarepa have asked African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) to treat the complaint with urgency and refer it to the African Court on Human and People’s Rights and involve the UN in investigating the alleged human rights violations.
They also want ACHPR to order the government to return the “migrants” to their ancestral homelands of Kigezi, Kisoro, Ankole and Rwanda.
The petitioners also want cancellation of all oil exploration and exploitation agreements that do not cater for interests of the Banyoro; cancel illegal land titles and settlements in the region.
and compensate Bunyoro for the losses.
They also want ACHPR to order the Uganda government to pay Bunyoro about Shs3.4 trillion, which it allegedly received from Britain as reparation for the harm caused to Bunyoro during colonial rule.