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General Yoweri Museveni inspects guard of honor of his loyal soldiers, the UPDF.


LAMWO-UGANDA: Residents of Lamwo district in the Northern region are mourning the destruction of hectares of their staple food crops in which more than 10,000 people have been evicted. It is the latest orchestrated land grab happening in the region.

The eviction has affected Adodi village, one of the largest remote villages popular for Simsim productions in the district estimated to be 20,000 hectares in Ngom Oromo parish in Lokung Sub County. Heavy earth moving machines are clearing the land for establishment of sugarcane estates for supplying Atiak Sugar in Amuru district. Residents say they don’t understand the development.

Rose Apiyo, 46, a mother of seven children says the project has affected so many residents cultivating food crops in the area. She says her Simsim farms that were projected to bring 600 bags worth several metric tons were destroyed from Pacwata village in Olebi parish. She says the 80 acres only yielded 100 bags due to disturbance from soldiers of Uganda People’s Defense Forces sent by the land grabbers. She says the soldiers forced them to harvest the crops prematurely.

Apiyo says farmers were given an ultimatum to harvest their crops before the lapse of January 5th this year. James Nabinson Kidega, the Lamwo District Resident Commissioner is the man who enforced the ultimatum.

“He (Kidega) started by declaring the area a war zone. He said the UPDF soldiers had been directed to flush out troops of South Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition (SPLA-IO) operating in the area. He threatened that the government would not be responsible for those caught up in the crossfire” she narrated.

Apiyo says Kidega pegged his threats on an allegation that some unknown gunmen had been sighted in the area. He accused the gunmen of raping more than 100 women and girls they found working in the gardens.

She said they were shocked to see the UPDF soldiers camping in the farmlands with more than 100 tractors engaged in bush clearing in the areas of Adodi belonging to communities.

The incident is a stark reminder to residents of what befell them during the National Resistance Army bush war when National Resistance Army soldiers disguised as rebels and sodomized men as they raped women and girls.

Despite the impasse, Robert Okot, 23, fetched 16 bags of Simsim from his two-acre piece of garden. He is also mourning the destruction of his three acres of Sorghum and two acres of finger millets to the land grabbers.

Pleas of the residents to be provided enabling security for harvesting their crops fell on deaf ears to the extent that Ociju Acellam, a village farm leader asked the UPDF soldiers to back off and allow them risk their lives for their produce.

Joachim Opoka Abola, the Local Council III of Lukung Sub County tried to block the land grab from happening under the command of Maj. Martin Labeja, a senior UPDF officer in the army. Black Star News learnt that Abola was under pressure from Lamwo district Chairperson Komakech John Ogwok and the Minister for Refugees, Relief and Disaster Preparedness Hilary Onek Obaloker to withdraw his pressure on the state army operating in the area.

The residents now believe that the UPDF Soldiers were behind the reported rape cases in the area. They want the matter to be treated as grave human rights violations against them. They say the UPDF soldiers are now guarding large swathes of land stretching from Lokung sub county to Padibe Sub County, estimated to be a distance of 30 kilometers. Trees in the area are being cut down to bare grounds.

''The situation is all chaotic. We have never seen a pro-people development forcefully introduced in an area like that. Our trees are indiscriminately being cut down. We have been made to understand that Dr. Amina Hersi, a Kenyan Sugar Mogul of Somali origin is behind the land grab” a source within the Lamwo district administration told Black Star News on condition of anonymity.

Dr. Amina Hersi Morghe is being used by Uganda’s long serving military tyrant General Yoweri Museveni to set up a sugar factory in Atiak Sub County in Amuru district. Residents are unhappy that she is using soldiers to forcefully grab the land from them against their will.

Uganda’s land act states that prior informed consent of the people must be sought before government undertakes any development in an area. In the case of Lokung Sub County, soldiers surrounded the whole area to keep affected residents from accessing their farm produce. Some sources within security in the district are also opposed to the land grab.

The army spokesperson in the region has refused to speak to Black Star News over the matter. There is no Environment Impact Assessment done for the Project. What has annoyed the residents the more is that the trees being felled are being destroyed or looted by the UPDF soldiers. They want to profiteer from them by converting them into charcoal for cooking fuel.

Hon Molly Lanyero, the Lamwo district Women Member of Parliament declined to comment on the development saying she has been away from office for one year on maternity leave.

“But what I know, the people should not reject the sugarcane project simply because the government is alleged to be using forceful means to evict them. But whether the land was acquired dubiously, I have no comment.” MP Lanyero said.

Komakech John Ogwok, the Chairman of Lamwo district is cagey on the UPDF deployment in the area. Black Star News called his personal mobile phone lines repeatedly in vain after failing to find him in office.

Desmond Anywar, the Environment Officer with charity organization, the Refugee Law Project says they are equally unhappy about the development for violating people’s rights. He urged the affected residents to draw the attention of the International Community by hosting a peaceful demonstration. The demo has been planned for February 21st.

Since news of the impending demonstration spread, more soldiers have been transported to the area to scare affected residents from participating in the protest.

“As a youth from Lamwo district, I am organizing fellow youth to help advocate for environmental protection in the area and a stop to the wanton land grab taking place in our motherland Lamwo. And we want the government to withdraw the soldiers from our farmlands. We are not rebels neither do we intend to start a rebellion. Why should the army be misused in this manner when the cardinal duty of the military is to protect citizens and their properties?” Mr. Anywar lamented.

Dr. Amina Hersi Morghe, the Kenyan Sugar Mogul was introduced to Atiak Sub County in Amuru district in 2012 by Norbert Mao, the President General of the Opposition Political party, the Democratic Party. He denies involvement in the latest land grab by the sugar investor who secured 5 hectares of land in Atiak sub county in Amuru district for Sugarcane farming. Without a drop of her first sugar out of the factory, Amina’s greed for land has extended far North East of Atiak Sub County into Lamwo district.

Norbert Mao says the only thing he learned about Amina project expansion is that the Clan Chief of Ayuu Alali Clan in Palabek Sub County signed a memorandum of understanding with Dr. Amina to secure her another vast piece of land measuring 16,000 Hectares in 2012. He says the only time he engaged with Dr Amina was in 2012 when he helped her secure land from the family of Ogik in Gem Farm in Atiak Sub county where she has managed to set up an incomplete sugar factory under the trade mark of Horyal Company Limited.

He also expressed shock that the clan chief is going overboard in forking out people’s land to the investor. “If that is true, then it is completely unacceptable especially the information you are giving me that the UPDF soldiers have forcefully been deployed on people’s farmland” Mao stated.

He argued that government of Uganda cannot begin to cultivate people’s land and thus the culpability of that land grab should squarely rest on Dr. Amina Morghe who is purported to be behind the takeover of the 51,000 hectares.

Mao warned the UPDF soldiers, Dr Amina’s group and government of Uganda that they are provoking angry sleeping dogs. He said it is unfortunate that the government is unleashing its force machinery on unarmed civilians who have not committed any crime by owning their lands.

In January 2018, the affected residents turned their furry on their clan chief for betraying them by entering the deal without consulting them. They convened a meeting in which they threatened to lynch the clan chief of Ayuu Alali clan in Lamwo. The meeting had only three agendas; prayer, communication from the chairperson and killing the chief.

Okot Oryem, a member of the community who attended the said meeting revealed to Black Star News that the Chief Rwot Richard Onyac Billi of Ayuu Alali was only saved from the mob action by a phone call which tipped him of the plan. He sneaked away from the meeting under the pretext of answering his call.

Under the Acholi Culture, subjects killing their own chief are considered an abomination which is only done in very extreme cases such as this one. The residents feel betrayed about their livelihoods and human existence.

This is not the only time; the government of military tyrant General Yoweri Museveni is being implicated in wanton land grab in Northern Uganda. In Achol Pii and Aswa Ranch in Pader district, the government of Gen Yoweri Museveni has grabbed several hectares of land for establishment of a military barracks which he has since converted into personal ranching scheme for grazing herds of livestock branded in this trademark name Yoweri Kaguta Museveni (YKM). This was accomplished after the land grab of Aswa Ranch.

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