As the Covid-19 pandemic ravages the world, several state, and non-state actors take advantage of vulnerable communities to evict and grab their land. Several politicians, businessmen, and investors have taken advantage of the crisis and the closure of courts to illegally dismiss people from their land despite the fact that the government ceased all land evictions during the covid19 lockdown.
The Kasanje farmers in Masaka District are some of the victims facing eviction threats from a businessman, Joseph Bukenya who claims to have bought this land from Patel Prafur, an Indian businessman even though they both have never shown any evidence of ownership of the land. The land which is approximately 324 acres, is owned by more than 600 farmers under the Kasanje farmers’ group have peacefully lived on this land for more than four decades until Bukenya showed up. It has been 12 years since Bukenya started threatening the community with eviction, and for the past three months, he has used goons to intimidate and terrorize the community leaving the farmers in fear and panic.
Early last week, a court letter delivered to the farmers by Bukenya through his lawyers, ordered the farmers to vacant by 30th June.
Fear and panic began to rise through the community but the farmers are resolute to defend their land. They transformed their fear into power, organized a peaceful demonstration to the sub-county offices demanding that Bukenya stops the eviction threats and the government do its responsibility of protecting them from such injustices. While some local leaders like the LC1 joined the farmers, others were utterly unconcerned. This demonstration follows other actions that the farmers carried out involving several local government and district leaders who have showed no interest in helping the farmers.
We have occupied this land for a long time and the land act allows us to remain as legal occupants. We are merely local peasants who have lived here for decades and so these rich people who have come from nowhere cannot just come and claim our land. We might not have the money that they have used to influence the RDC and courts but we shall stand together to stay on our land – Richard Senono, a member of Kasanje Bibanja Owners’ Association
Since 1979, the farmers have lived peacefully on this land, raising their families and even burying their ancestors and family members here. They organized themselves in the Kasanje Bibanja Owners’ Association where they collectively grow crops like coffee, bananas, and pineapples to support their livelihoods. If they get evicted, they not only lose their land but also become homeless, with no source of income and food for survival. That is why it is important for us to stand in solidarity and demand #JusticeforKasanjeFarmers.