Gen. Museveni's Police Attack With Teargas Ugandans Who Won't Sell Land to Powerful Madhvani Corp

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Resistance--fearing Museveni wants to displace them and sell their land to wealthy Madhvanis these Ugandans set road blocks; elderly women also launched semi-nude protest.

Residents here resisting an alleged land grab by Gen. Yoweri Museveni on behalf of a multi-billion dollar Uganda conglomerate were attacked by security officers who fired live rounds into the air and used teargas against demonstrators, some of whom rolled naked on the road.

Two people were hospitalized with injuries at St Mary's Hospital Lacor. A Member of Parliament later called the Museveni regime's strong-arm approach "barbaric."

Women and men set up barricades using chopped trees and sat behind them on a road leading to rich agricultural land in this part of Uganda.

They were trying to block access by President Museveni's minister of lands, housing and urban development Betty Amongi who has vowed that nothing will stop her from conducting a land survey. She was escorted by a heavily armed convoy of equipped in riot gear.

There are unconfirmed reports of heavy troop deployment in nearby Kololo.

Local residents believe Amongi wants to survey land on behalf of the multi-billion dollar Madhvani family who want a sugarcane plantation and factory.

The Museveni regime has for years tried in vain to acquire the communally-owned land which the wealthy owners of Madhvani Group want.

Micheal Lakony, the Amuru Local Government leader told this reporter that a sugar cane project is not the only investment government can bring to Amuru and that the land belongs to the community. Lakony himself was reduced to tears when the security agents unleashed the teargas.

"Why is government insisting on bringing Madhvani here yet our people do not want the project," Lakony demanded. "Amuru people will give land for development to other investors but not Madhvani because their approach to our people in acquiring land is wrong. See how they are using teargas and shooting our people with live bullets?"

Madhvani has become like a curse word in this part of Acholi.

This is because land is the only source of livelihood for most residents of this region. Many from the local population were confined in concentration camps and robbed of all other forms of wealth including their livestock in raids by government soldiers during the decades of war between Museveni's army and Joseph Kony's LRA.

That's why in recent years many people here in Acholi, the most neglected and poorest part of the country, have resorted to extraordinary measures such as elderly women taking off their clothes and protesting naked. In Acholi it's one of the most pronounced acts of defiance and rejection.

Unlike here in this part of Amuru, the Gem Farm in Atiak Sub-county, Amuru District, Horyal Investment Holding Co Ltd has set up a sugar factory on a 16,000-acre land. That project is developing well due to community acceptance.

However, the Madhvani sugar factory project is facing stiff resistance as the Madhvanis, who are well connected are seen as using strong-arm tactics to displace people from their ancestral lands. The multi-billionaires seek to acquire 24,710 acres (10,000 hectares) of land. More than 15,000 people live in the area.

The Madhvani group of companies, with main offices in Uganda, is a powerful global conglomerate and employs 10,000 people. It was founded 1914. Its founder Muljibhai Madhvani immigrated from India. It now operates in several African countries, the Middle East, India and North America.

During the protest Amongi remained holed up in her car with other officials for over four hours on the road to Kololo in Amuru Sub county for fear of an attack by the angry residents of Amuru.

Several residents said they don't want the Madhvanis on their land. There were hundreds of people. At some point, elderly women, got up and cast off part of their clothing. Some threw themselves in front of the ministerial convoy.

The Museveni regime claims 110 people entered an agreement with government to sell their land to Madhvani for sugarcane growing, which community leaders and elected representative refuted yesterday as they blocked the minister.

The Madhvanis have eyed the Amuru land since 2012.

Members from the Acholi Parliamentary Group, a caucus of the elected members of Parliament (MP) from this part of Uganda have demanded that Museveni intervene in the matter. The Members of Parliament are: Lucy Akello Amuru Woman MP, Lucy Aciro Aruu North MP, Lyndro Komakech Gulu Municipality MP, Samuel Odonga Otto Aruu South MP, Gilbert Olanya Kilak North, Anthony Akol Kilak South.

MP Akello mentioned the heavy troop deployment in Kololo. Akello says when she tried to reach Museveni through Polly Kamukama, a top assistant, Kamukama told her: "We are tired of these issues of Amuru. Whatsoever will happen will have to happen. We have already released money."

She took this to mean the president knew of the volatile dispute. She is demanding that troops be withdrawn to avoid bloodshed.

Lyandro Komakech, the Gulu Municipality MP was outraged and said the regime needed a more conflict- sensitive approach to handling the Amuru land dispute. He denounced the use of live rounds and teargas. "I don't think even the British used this on our people but here we are in 2017," he said, referring to confrontations over land under colonial rule. "This is barbaric. It is not a good approach for development."

Komakech criticized the regime's and Madhvani's high-handed approach and compared it with other projects. "Atiak Sugar works brought on board the entire community and there is full participation. There is equity in the whole process but Madhvani's approach is a model that cannot be accepted in Uganda today. If you went to Jinja, I don't think Madhvani has made all the Basoga rich, no." He was referring to the Madhvani Group's other major project in Busoga region.

But Amongi, the Museveni minister said there was an out-of-court settlement when members of the community sued and once those individuals who agreed have their land surveyed they would receive payment.

She said the agreement was signed in 2015 by then attorney general with the plaintiffs who had previously objected to land acquisition. "It means that the clients know what this means. What we are left with now is payment and the government has communicated to them. The clients know how government has communicated to them on how that is being handled," Amongi said, adding that 10 people are set to have their land surveyed.

"What I am implementing is only dealing with those who want to sell their land on willing seller, willing buyer to constitute the 10,000 hectares," she claimed, adding that her mission will not be disrupted.

She claimed Acholi leaders were manipulating the local community to accept their ideas. She said: "I have been in the field with honorable Mao and Ogenga Latigo supporting the project. Let us accept that there are Acholi leaders who support the project. But let us not shift blame. It is you the Acholi people, if you want to have a common position, to agree on that common position."

Mao is the president of the opposition Democratic Party and Latigo is an MP.

However the elderly women who partially disrobed in protest said they were resisting land grab.

In other parts of Acholi region people have been resisting the powerful Madhvanis who have direct access to Museveni since 2006.

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