Maize farmers accuse UPDF of extortion

Maize farmer in Kikuube district seen drying his maize cobs


Maize and beans farmers in Nyairongo village Kabwoya sub-county, Kikuube district have labelled members of the uganda people’s defence force (UPDF) as extortionists.

They have accused the defense men of collecting money from them to allow them harvest their crops from the land belonging to Hoima sugar Ltd.

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According to Edson Matsiko, a maize farmer and farmers chairperson, the armed to the tooth officers are evicting asking for money from poor farmers, flogging and threatening to shoot whoever attempts to question of their extortions.

“The UPDF is evecting farmers and extorting from them. When you question the reason for the collected money, they threaten you with guns. I have recently been flogged and forced to squat to the ground in the view of the farmers. Many farmers are fearing to come and harvest their crops something that makes government lose revenue,” said Matsiko

He said the armed men allegedly forced many of the farmers to leave their fields and park the vehicles ferrying their hsrvest until they pay to them money.

It should be recalled that over 200 farmers were on June 7, given a three month grace period (upto September 7) to harvest their crops after it was realized that the land onwhich they occupied belonged to Hoima Sugar Ltd investor.

In a meeting with the Kikuube district RDC, political heads, Kikuube district local government officials, farmers and representatives from Hoima sugar Ltd, the farmers admittedly consented their signatures on an agreement to vacate the land which they had illegally enchroached on.

The disputed land is part of the over 2,000 acres that Bunyoro – Kitara Kingdom leased out to Hoima sugar Ltd for 99 years to grow sugarcane for the production of sugar in Kikuube district.

“The authority (updf) is like extortionist. They come dressed in army uniform with guns in one hand and the other hand is stretched out,” Jamir Bainomugisha told the PARROTS UG reporter.

“I don’t know when civilians started paying security officers in this country. Our responsibility is to pay taxes and then government pays its workers!” He said

Bainomugisha said the hostility of the armed officers has caused farmers to be suffering and that the extortion takes place regularly.

Some of the farmers from Nyairongo Kabwoya sub-county led by their Chairperson Edson Matsiko during an interview with our reporter

It has been established that updf officers are demanding for between Shs 230,000 and Sh260,000 per an acre of the field equivalent to one bag of dried maize cobs.

Further reports indicate that the officers demand for Sh500,000 from each truck ferrying the harvests.

Hadijjah Kabanyoro, also a farmer revealed that a one Saachi Charles, from TULIPONA veteran association which allegedly rented out the land to farmers has been moving with two soldiers telling farmers to give away one bag of maize per each acre of land.

Another farmer, Silas Byaruhanga who disclosed that he was recently arrested and taken the army barracks where he was forced to pay Sh200,000 said he became suspicious after he was not provided any receipt of payments.

The farmers are appealing to the government to intervene in the matter and explain to the public on whose orders they are working. They accuse the UPDF and TULIPONA veterans association of breaching terms of the agreement signed between farmers and Hoima sugar Ltd which allowed farmers to harvest their crops without any disruptions.

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However, when contacted, the Kikuube Resident District Commissioner (RDC) Amlan Tumusiime said he was still busy in a retreat in Kyankwanzi for all RDCs and their deputies.

Few hours later, he (RDC Tumusiime) issued a directive halting all activities in the contested harvesting area until he returns to the district.

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