UGANDA: WHO CAN SAVE “TRUE OWNERS” OF AMURU LAND FROM “NEW UNSCRUPULOUS LAND OWNERS”?

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Local Community members of Lakang village, waiting to be addressed by Acholi paramount King, Rwot David Onen-Acana II.
“What is happening in Amuru should not be happening in the 21st Century. It is worst than what happened during Dictator Idi Amin’s regime. I know they can use force now, but if regime changes, we shall claim back our land”
“There must be a fresh process of validation, verification and audit of all the people registered as land owners in Lakang village in Amuru district in order to weed out new unscrupulous land owners who have moved in the village to grab land from people who don’t want to give their land for the sugar cane plantation”
AMURU-UGANDA: A group of locals were already seated on the grass under a tree in the community Payot Primary School compound, Lakang village in Amuru district by the time the convoy of Acholi paramount King, Rwot David Onen-Acana II, arrived at about 3.00 pm local time (01.00 GMT) . This was on Wednesday, August 23, 2017.
This village was a no go area for local leaders two weeks ago as police force, led by no less than a police commissioner, had cordoned off the place as a group of government surveyors were busy surveying land of those locals who were willing to offer their land for a sugar cane plantation.
Inside a large tent erected by the Uganda police personnel on the bushy school compound, a group of people had lined up waiting to register their land to be included among those willing to offer their land for a sugar cane plantation wanted by government on behalf of Madvhani group of Companies.
On the convoy of the Paramount King, were two members of parliament from Acholi sub-region, Mr. Samuel Odonga-Otto and Mr. Gilbert Olanya; and Mr. Michael Lakony, Amuru district chairman.
Others included two religious leaders, retired Anglican bishop Macleod Baker Ochola II and Vicar General of Gulu Catholic Archdiocese, Msgr. Mathew Odong.
Amuru has been on the spotlight lately for two un-related land conflicts of Apaa and Lakang.
The first case involves a 40 square kilometer land boundary dispute between neighboring Adjumani district and Amuru at Apaa village in Amuru North constituency which has claimed thirteen lives so far since 2006, but its resolution is not in sight.
The second conflict involves 10,000 hectares of land wanted by Madvhani Group of Companies for sugar cane plantation in Lakang village in Amuru South constituency. The requested was contested in courts of law and has since drawn a lot of resistance from local leaders.
This is a rich fertile land which is heavily populated by locals who rushed to acquire land there in 2006 after the resolution of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebellion.
There have emerged two types of land owners here; the first group is those willing to offer their land for Madvhani to grow sugar cane and the second group is those who do not want to lease their land. But the question still stand, how can the surveyors succeed in surveying 10,000 hectares block of land belonging to the willing people without affecting those unwilling who are freely mixed up in between?
Since the minister of Lands, Ms. Betty Amongi-Akena, announced more than a month ago, that government will use force to survey this land, many National Resistance Movement operatives and crime preventers were ferried into Lakang village. They intimidate those who are not willing to offer their land.
This group of locals are now so scared that some of them have been compromised while others lost part of their land to the crime preventers and operatives. People fear that the NRM operatives who are roaming the areas claiming to be rightful land owners yet they were not members of the community.
“Why must police mount road block to stop us, leaders, from visiting our electorates if government is doing a clean job?” Says Ochira David, the Local Council III chairman of Amuru sub-county
“There must be a fresh process of validation, verification and audit of all the people registered as land owners in Lakang village in Amuru district in order to weed out new unscrupulous land owners who have moved in the village to grab land from people who don’t want to give their land for the sugar cane plantation”, says Prime Minister of Acholi chiefdom, Mr. Ambrose Olaa.
“What is happening in Amuru should not be happening in the 21st Century. It is worst than what happened during Dictator Idi Amin’s regime. I know they can use force now, but if regime changes, we shall claim back our land”, says Mr. Lakony.
Msgr. Odong condemns deaths being caused by land conflicts in Acholi sub-region in general and appeals to Acholi community to rally behind Acholi paramount King in order to solve their grievances against government.
Bishop Ochola reminded the people of their constitutional duty to change bad governments through the ballot.
“Land matter is a matter of life and death. Acholi land has sucked a lot of innocent blood of the people. There is no public or free land in Acholi”, says Acholi Paramount King, Rwot Onen-Acana II.

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