Even The Wretched Deserve Justice

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If land must be the only asset they have between eternal poverty and a decent living, then there must be someone or group of people to ensure that everyone benefits fairly.

 [Africa Commentary: On Uganda Land Grab]

 

 

 

Ugandan Member of Parliament Simon Oyet (FDC, Nwoya) should be commended for his stand on behalf of the wretched of the earth regarding the land question in Acholi (please see: http://www.monitor.co.ug/artman/publish/news/Brigadier_evicts_100_families_68661.shtml

 


All Acholi, including those among us here who are also involved in massive land enclosures and speculations in Acholi, must think about the rest of those less fortunate and their children and their children.

 


This by no means is to discourage individual progress. But to think of gradually easing Acholi society into the kind of ravenous market society that some among us think we must hurtle it towards.

 


My position is that, Acholi communal land has been husbanded by our forbearers for centuries and access and use were well-regulated to ensure equity and social equality. This is not to say that there were no poorer folks as a result of laziness or some other disadvantages, but no one was landless or unable to grow their own food.

 


The British introduced us to capitalist mode of production more than 100 years ago. However, Acholi elites from that era up to about when Yoweri Museveni seized power did not behave like the elites we have today. Did we not have brigadiers, generals, professors, wealthy businessmen and women? Of course we did.

 


We must stop to think; why didn’t Acholi elites like ladit Peter Aber, ladit Peter Oola, ladit Obadiyah Lalaobo, Nua Tukdel Ochora, Ezira Kibwota, Ananiya Akera, Otema Allimadi, Alex Ojera, Elijah Latim, Gino Obonyo, Opoka Tycoon Obuli, etc., never share out Acholi land among themselves in tens of thousands of hectares? They did not want to disregard the interests of the rest.

 


It is because they believed in fairness; and I want to say that I am personally a believer in fairness. I believe that every Acholi man, woman, and child born or still to be born; poor or rich, have equal rights to the fortunes that can be had from our land.

 


If land must be the only asset they have between eternal poverty and a decent living, then there must be someone or group of people to ensure that everyone benefits fairly. Given the poverty and deprivation of the last 22 years; given that less than 50% of our population is literate; and given that less than 5% of Acholi would afford to survive in an open land market,  I am opposed to non-residential, large, private land holding on freehold tenure rather than leasehold.

 


Acholi needs to put a limit to such holdings, say 1,000 hectares at most with leases capped at 50 years. Until the gaps between the poor and the rich in Acholi is bridged, which may take 50 years, no Acholi communal land should be transformed and transferred to freehold tenures.

 


And those large land owners must be taxed for market values of their holdings. We need to think fairness. There is no other way about it on land.

 

 

 

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