A Letter To Acholi Leaders

The writer, Mr Morris Komakech

Dear Acholi Leaders; my leaders,

I am writing for the very first time to you. Given the gravity of the subject, I humbly beg that you invest just few seconds of your rather busy schedule to scheme through this letter.

This letter comes at a time when the online newspaper Acholi Times has reported a pending meeting between you, our esteemed elected leaders – notably, MPs, with Mr. Museveni, on yet to be named date, time and place. We anticipate that investments and acquisition, or rather bluntly put, expropriation of land for plantation will top the agenda of this meeting.

The land issue has refused to vacate the investment discursive space and invariably so for reasons. Without dispossessing Acholi of land, the Museveni anticipated promises of social transformation of our people from a free and self-sustaining state into perpetual slaves appears incomplete.

In the 1990s, Mr. Museveni promised many things. One of those is modernization of Uganda through industrialization and a social transformation of northerners from a backward chauvinism to whatever model he foresaw then.

We interpret the two decades of genocide as the initial phase of this process. Land dispossession is the last phase in the spectrum.  We also know that he is being nice to the process. He could be forceful. However, Mr. Museveni should not subdue us on our land. His recent land reform policies and the speed at which the economy is liberalizing should concern us excessively. Needless to remind you that Acholi are deliberately excluded from this economy and the condition in which our reintegration is apparent resides on our land.

Land is the primary means of production, which is becoming very scarce and contested item in areas that this regime kept peaceful and productive. Those who exercise ownership over land have also exercised control over means of economic production. Most revolutions in the world, that I have studied, have happened and succeeded on the question of land expropriation. Landless state is associated with immense diminishing of human value and suffering in a life of absolute destitution – migrant labor and homelessness among others.

When we lose control over the land, the Acholi people will be no more. We shall become laborers like those we employed in the 1970s and 80s, to look after our cows. This time, with sophisticated technology, our people shall offer even cheap and degraded labor in precarious employment. The least you can do for Acholi now is to guarantee our inherent land rights.

The fate of a typical Acholi in the post conflict society is dire. Many are failing miserably to cope with post war challenges. Homes have broken down and the typical Acholi household experiences have profoundly transformed, where children and women are now the household heads. Men are struggling to adjust and cope with helplessness, drunkenness, and violence in its broader sense.

What still holds all of us together, and confer upon us, and our children some semblance of sanity and dignity and worth is land that we still own, communally. It is only on this land, that we find peace, consolation, and realization as a people. Elsewhere, we are fiercely problematised and alienated from the mainstream society and economy in concert with the grand scheme of Mr. Museveni’s sectarian politics.

Let me give you a glimpse of the implications of losing our rights to land. Take the instance of rapid rural to urban migration as landless people will get vacated by Mr. Museveni’s industrialists. Spaces and social services in urban centres are not planned, or evolving commensurately to contain lowly skilled migrants. This is a major problem for the near future. It is a clarion call to local district councils and urban centre administration to examine urgently. A radical housing policy is inevitable. Expansion of sewers, public spaces, social services, enterprises, transportation, and industries to absorb the landless people must top the metropolis economic agenda for the next 20-30 years because these people must find alternative economic activity for self-sustenance.

The idea is that we should not wait for the inevitable to befall us and then react. The responses may be too late and too little. We should foresee and plan ahead of time. Most importantly, we have to pay heed to the rate at which the economy is liberalizing. It may swallow us if we are unprepared.

In the event of your discussion with Mr. Museveni, please, consider the following;

Implore Mr. Museveni to abolish the idea of plantation investment in Northern Uganda. Plantations everywhere, are associated with a decline of society, and destruction of both social and physical environments. Each district should plan and locate industrial parks for lease to investors. No investor should buy and own land in Acholiland – they must lease and pay rent. We must, as a matter of policy, encourage our people to secure titles to their lands and to lease the land, so that they become landlords, not landless people, or mere laborers on their own land.

For improved agriculture, advocate for improved seeds that resist the adverse weather and pests, while giving high yield. Mr. Museveni should suspend import taxes on farm implements and generate more electricity to sustain agro-based industry. Plantation agriculture is a thing of the past; at least, sugarcane plantation is out dated.

Kind regards,

Your subject at large,

Morris DC Komakech