Uganda: Acholi Holocaust And Ill Gotten Gains

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[Uganda: Land Grab In Acholi]

Two decades of war and over 10 years of forced displacement have leftover a million war-weary Northern Ugandans with the daunting task ofmoving back to original homesteads to begin the process of rebuildingtheir lives.

But two years after the uncoordinated resettlement process of over twomillion people began, the movement home for many has been delayed.Disputes over land, the lack of clean water sources, healthcare andfunctioning schools, and the presence of land mines in some areas,have prevented many people from returning.

Renewed fears of insecurity due to Uganda’s return to war with theLord’s Resistance Army, December 14, 2008 have also driven some peopleback to squalid displacement camps, for the perceived safety ofnumbers.

Oil and Gold
Confirmation of gold deposits in areas of Northern Uganda and arecently announced oil find in Purongo, sub-county Amuru District,described by Canadian corporation Heritage Oil as "world class," havebrought about several land disputes, with investors, privateindividuals and government officials attempting to illegally acquireland.

The Acholi sub-region districts of Amuru, Gulu, Kitgum and Pader—arealso known as Acholiland. Ugandan daily the Monitor reported February 22, 2009 that Heritage Oilhas already completed its first phase of oil exploration at the Amurusite in Purongo sub-county.

The government of Uganda has not madepublic the contractual agreement giving mineral rights to Heritage.

The Monitor also noted that Heritage is currently employing privatemercenaries to guard it, and the government has deployed members ofthe Presidential Guard Brigade (PGB) at the site. [See:

Madhvani Land Case
On Monday, February 23, the Monitor newspaper incorrectly reportedthat the Acholi Parliamentary Group (APG), a group of Acholiparliamentarians who had long maintained a "resettlement beforeinvestment" stance, had reversed positions and agreed to allow theMadhvani Group title to 20,000 hectares of land for sugar canecultivation. [See:

The APG currently is suing several parties, including the MadhvaniGroup, the Amuru District Land Board and Major General Julius Oketa. The latest court hearing January 19, 2009, resulted in APGsuccessfully securing a permanent injunction halting all landtransfers in Amuru District.

The ruling by the High Court means theAmuru District Land Board must suspend the issuance of all landleases. Gulu High Court Judge Remy Kasule will hear the case March 9 and 10,2009.

Judge Kasule’s ruling will determine whether the land is publicland that can be allocated, or customary land owned by clan groups inAmuru. Kasule may opt to cancel any illegally awarded titles. The Prime Minister’s Office and other government agents have openly promoted the interests of various investors.

In support of anexpedited land transaction for an army official, the Minister ofLands, Omara Atubo, authored a Letter to the Amuru District Land Boardon behalf of the official, urging the Land Board to act quickly inallocating the land. [See:

Interview with Member of Parliament Hon. Simon Oyet (Representative for Nwoya County, oil-rich and land-rich Amuru District) Speaking from Gulu, MP Oyet clarified APG’s statements regarding theMadhvani land issue and gave a few updates on the ongoing militaryaction by Uganda and its allies — "Operation Lightning Thunder" — inthe DRC.

HA: Yesterday the Monitor reported that the Acholi Parliamentary Grouphad reversed its position and agreed to give land to the MadhvaniGroup, 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 thecommercial farmers and the investors, those who want to do investmentin Acholiland—we told them that for us we are not against investmentin Acholiland, but we are against the top-bottom approach toinvestment in Acholiland.

The approach that we are recommending is that they should negotiatedirectly with the landowners. They must stop going through State Houseor government machineries to facilitate acquisition of land.

All we are saying is that any body is free to come and do investmentin Acholi so long asthey are ready to talk directly with the landowners, and we feel thatour people should not sell their land but go in for a joint venturewith anybody who wants to invest in Acoli land, where land should beused as equity in any investment. We (also) gave the assurance that we will not accept to see our peoplemarginalized or deprived of the privilege to enjoy their land.

For the case of Madhvani we are still waiting for the court ruling andwe 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. ChristianAtimango—former Secretary to the Amuru District Land Board—AmuruDistrict 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 theintention to sue because of different factors … and we also werewondering how he got the land. Because he has never been here, but healready has the land title, and somebody has signed off some big chunkof 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 wants20,000 hectares in the application, Oketa is 10,000 hectares, Atimango2,000 hectares, Opiyo 2,000 hectares, and some other people who wefailed to get their details also applied for roughly 6,000 hectares.

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

HA: What about abductees that are being rescued. How are they being handled? Have the abductees met with local leaders … are they taken tohospitals …
Oyet: Yesterday from Uganda Television, we got some information thatsome children were rescued by UPDF and the joint troops of SPLA and DRC, and South Sudanese  abductees handed over to Southern Sudan. But Idon’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 wehave so many Ugandan children who were also abducted, and theirwhereabouts 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.

* Additional Reading *
LAND ISSUES Land (Amendment) Bill will divide Uganda, literally - Hon. Livingstone Okello-Okello, Member of Parliament, Uganda (Monitor, Kampala  

OPERATION "LIGHTNING THUNDER" In Uganda, justice, or just a publicity stunt? (Christian Science Monitor)  

U.S. under fire over Ugandan rebel hunt (Reuters)
From Iron Fists* to Iron Sheets, Neils Harbin (*The Last UnsuccessfulUgandan Mission Against the LRA was called "Operation Iron Fist"  

PRDP* (PEACE RECOVERY AND DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME) Has the Govt. moved a vote of no confidence in itself?, Norbert Mao,Chairman Gulu District, Northern Uganda, 2011 Presidential Candidate

*The PRDP is a initiative that is primarily donor funded, with the US,UK and Denmark contributing significant amounts (the entire programwill cost $606 million).

BOOKS Living with Bad Surroundings, by Sverker Finnstrom  

The Wizard of the Nile, Matthew Green  

VIDEO The Final Betrayal (August 19, 2008)  
Child Soldiers in Uganda

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