Uganda; Oil, Land, And Ill-gotten Gains

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[Global News]

The Daily Monitor Newspaper in Uganda recently published a report signaling a change in position of the Acholi Parliamentary Group, (APG), who represent various districts in the northern part of Uganda, where the Acholi ethnic community reside. Though the article created quite a stir, a closer look revealed that the report was completely false, and APG had not reversed its position on the land issue regarding The Madhvani Group, which is seeking 40,000 acres of land for growing sugarcane. As of Feb. 27, The Monitor had not retracted the story.
Speaking from Gulu, Member of Parliament, Simon Oyet, who represents oil-rich and land-rich Amuru, clarified the matter and also discussed the recently botched operation, "Operation Lightning Thunder" by the Ugandan Army with U.S. support, to destroy the Lord’s Resistance Army, during a Christmas Season attack.

HA: Yesterday the Monitor reported that the Acholi Parliamentary Group had reversed its position and agreed to give land to the Madhvani Group, is that true?
Oyet: That is not true—we have not agreed to give land to Madhvani. But what we agreed—because we were having a forum of all the commercial farmers and the investors, those who want to do investment in Acholiland—we told them that for us we are not against investment in Acholiland, but we are against the top-bottom approach to investment in Acholiland.
The approach that we are recommending is that they should negotiate directly with the landowners. They must stop going through State House or government machineries to facilitate acquisition of land. All we are saying is that any body is free to come and do investment in Acholi so long as they are ready to talk directly with the landowners, and we feel that our people should not sell their land but go in for a joint venture with anybody who wants to invest in Acholi land, where land should be used as equity in any investment.
We (also) gave the assurance that we will not accept to see our people marginalized or deprived of the privilege to enjoy their land. For the case of Madhvani we are still waiting for the court ruling and we have stopped any discussion with them.

HA: So the court date is still March 9?
Oyet: Yes. March 9, and 10, it will take two days.

HA: Who is named in the suit?
Oyet: We have 5 accused. Madhvani, Major Julius Oketa, Ms. Christian Atimango—former Secretary to the Amuru District Land Board—Amuru District Land Board and one called Opiyo, who’s based in London. For the case of Opiyo we failed to serve him with the letter of the intention to sue because of different factors … and we also were wondering how he got the land. Because he has never been here, but he already has the land title, and somebody has signed off some big chunk of land in his name.

HA: How many acres of land have been allocated in total?
Oyet: We’re talking of about 40,000 hectares, because Madhvani wants 20,000 hectares in the application, Oketa is 10,000 hectares, Atimango 2,000 hectares, Opiyo 2,000 hectares, and some other people who we failed to get their details also applied for roughly 6,000 hectares.

HA: Have you received any news about the LRA and "Operation Lightning Thunder" in Garamba Forest, DRC?
Oyet: The LRA Garamba operation is not clear—since the information is being managed by the UPDF spokesman based in Garamba—we take their information as gospel truth. We are getting only one-sided information.

HA: What about abductees that are being rescued. How are they being handled? Have the abductees met with local leaders … are they taken to hospitals …
Oyet: Yesterday from Uganda Television, we got some information that some children were rescued by UPDF and the joint troops of SPLA and DRC, and South Sudanese abductees handed over to Southern Sudan. But I don’t know much about it, because we do not have any counter-information to that effect. But what we keep wondering, we have many of our children in captivity, but none of them have been brought back in the name of rescue from the battle.
Why is it that since the beginning of the war we have never heard any of these rescued children coming back to Uganda, and yet we know we have so many Ugandan children who were also abducted, and their whereabouts are not known up to now.
So that is the question, which keeps beating at our understanding. We don’t know whether the information the government is giving is really true or not.

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