Elders petition President Museveni over unresolved boundary

Elders in the Sebei Sub-Region have petitioned President Yoweri Museveni over the unresolved boundary dispute between Bugisu and Sebei.

They contend that part of Sebei territory was erroneously absorbed into Bugisu, a problem that dates back to the colonial time when Sebei County was elevated to District status.

Sebei was initially part of the greater Bugisu district until 1961 when it attained autonomy. Bugisu had five sub counties; Bungokho, Bubulo, Manjiya, Budadiri, and Sebei.

The issue has reignited memories of the historic tribal standoff between Bagisu and Abinyi. The elders are keen to see a peaceful and just resolution to this longstanding impasse. The elders also expressed dismay at their political leaders whom they accuse of not pursuing the matter.

Elders from across the Sebei sub-region led by the Sebei older person chairperson Barteka Vincent held a peaceful procession through Kapchorwa town holding placards in expression of their disappointment over the unresolved boundary issue.

The team matched to the RDC’s office which doubles as a brunch of the president’s officer at the district level. The Deputy Resident District Commissioner Martin Sekajja received the petition and pledged to channel the petition to the president.  “We brought this partition so that the government knows that we need our border” Barteka emphasized while handing over the petition to Sekaja.

The petitioner told Nile Post that they have pursued the matter with the president since 2009 but nothing has been done. In his meeting with Sebei leaders dated June 2022, President Museveni pledged to send Prime Minister Ms. Robinah Nabbanja to open the boundary.

Aloysius Chebet, Pastor Mawa Adrine Johnson, and Kapcherono David Satya claim that Sebei County initially stretched from River Shok (present-day River Sironko) but it was shifted to River Simu and later to River Yembe by the 1961 council resolution signed by governor Kuuts.

Pastor Mawa further claimed that the boundary stretches from Wagagi Peak at the top of Mount Elgon in the East, river Yembe to the South, river Girigi to the North, and Lake Okolitorom to the West. In support of this claim, Mawa revealed that some of the places in the contested territory bore Sabinyi names of which some have since been renamed by Bagisu.

For instance, Cheptui and River Yembek which is “Yembe”. “Because we were under the Bugisu and we were a backward people then”.

The elders however accuse their Bagisu neighbors of deviating from the said 1961 boundary to the cliff annexing part of Sebei territory to Bugisu (Bulambuli district). “But eventually they cut the whole of down (lower belt) along the cliff of the mountain and put it under Muyembe Sub-county in Bugisu” Satya said.

A district councillor says Kapchorwa district council was left in shock after a survey report for a piece of land meant for the development of a Health centre in Sanzala Parish by Kapchorwa district local government indicated that the same area is geographically in Bulambuli.

Other government institutions in the same area are administratively in Kapchorwa. The national identity cards of the community indicate the Kapchorwa district.

The contested area has vast land which was abandoned in the 80s due to the Karimajong insurgency.

Bulambuli district leaders also urged President Museveni to resolve the boundary issue for harmony. These however say a team of surveyors came in  2014 but the Sebei leaders avoided them.

However, Hakim Watenyeli an analyst from Bugisu says the Sabiny were brought from Kitale, Kenya to Uganda as settlers in 1926 following an understanding between the DC Kitale and DC Bubulo to create room for white farmers in Kitale.

Subsequently, 2500 families were temporarily resettled in Sebei on an agreement that they would return to their homeland upon the departure of the white farmers. “When Moi wanted to boost his voting power he came and registered them as Kenyan voters. Moi told them that these people are not Ugandans they are Kenyans living in Uganda.”

Watenyeli however says this plan was shortchanged after independence due to the political influence of their cultural leader Chemonges. “When Kiwanuka was given powers to lead Uganda, they were rewarded with a district status for supporting DP”.

The 1995 constitution endorsed them as Ugandan Citi recognized by recognizing everyone who was in Uganda from 1926 as a citizen. “I think this is an eye opener to demand Britain for compensation for giving out land to non-Ugandans,” said Watenyeli.

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