Local residents in Amuru district in Northern Uganda on Sunday July 22 declared a land revolt in which they warned government that they will vehemently resist any attempts to evict them from their land in the name of investment.
The meeting followed the news that a sum of Shs131m had been given by the Madhvani group of companies to Amuru Resident District Commissioner (RDC) Mr James Mwesigye and the LC5 Chairman Mr. Anthony Omach Atube to kick start land demarcation and survey in the area.
Amuru district Chief Finance Officer Mr Oweka Simon was asked to present a receipt of the fund.
In letter to the district officials which was written last month and seen by this reporter, Madhivani says that; “if the land survey is finished, mark stones must be put in place immediately.”
“The RDC should ensure that police is added in Lakang to keep law and order.”
“Those who will be disorderly should be dealt with firmly,” the letter added.
In another letter written by Madhvani Group Director for Agriculture Mr K.G.K Rajar, the company says: “Amuru Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) should ensure that the 10,000 hectares in Lujoro village is surveyed and we shall send in more money.”
Mr. Michael Anywar Odai, a Madhvani agent in Gulu and Mwesigye were asked to keep the Trade Minister Amelia Kyambadde and Madhvani officials updated on any progress.
The letter also instructed Mr. Mwesigye to ensure that maximum security for those who are going to begin planting sugarcane on the land is guaranteed. The company is hoping that the survey of land will be complete before the end of September, with work beginning soon thereafter.
However, youths in the district have vowed to defend their land and fight Madhivani by any means at their dispersal.
The High Court of Gulu ruled in February this year that the land in Amuru sub-county is public land, a verdict which angered communities.
Madhvani, Maj. Gen Julius Oketa and Christine Atimango a land board district officials won the court case, after residents sued them for what they say was a wrongful acquisition of their land.
President Museveni who recently visited the area, directed that a committee of district officials and local leaders from Amuru should be formed to negotiate with him, what percentage in benefit the community can expect. The president appointed Betty Bigombe and William both legislators from the region to oversee the establishment of this committee.
Kilak County Member of Parliament Hon Gilbert Olanya announced an end to negotiations with Central government, saying that Kampala had snubbed them.
“We had agreed to form a committee but now it has failed. Our people will use any means in their reach and they shall deal with any trespassers on their land,” Olanya said.
Olanya added that Museveni had gone against his own commitment and such a move was a calculated trick to grab people’s land.
“We shall not allow our land to go like this, the people should defend their only resource” Olanya added.
“Indians are not Acholi; God said the land here belongs to Acholi, so why must we be dislodged like animals. Always the owner of a property is lucky,” Olanya said.
Olanya urged Museveni to order all police out of Lakang because they were causing insecurity in the area.
Lamogi clan Chief Rwot Paul Olango said that land eviction must be resisted by all means and assured residents that they had his full support.
“What locals want is not for someone to impose their will. As a Chief, it’s difficult to go against the needs of my people,” he said.
Mr Olango urged Museveni to restrain on the Amuru land interest because the war drums will be sounded and would cause more misery to the people already traumatised by the two decades of armed insurgency in northern Uganda.
Meanwhile, the issue of land was also a contentious subject at the burial of Lord Andrew Adimola on July 13.
The leader of Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) Party and former UN diplomat Ambassador Dr Olara Otunnu warned President Museveni to think twice about his plans to grab land across Uganda.
“I want to address a very solemn message to my dear friend President Yoweri Museveni; respect the people and their land,” Otunnu said.
Otunnu said that Museveni was meddling with land in Amuru, Acwa, Otuke, Polokok, Kiboga Mubende and West Nile region.
“Ladit Andrea is a survivor of genocide, everything is gone and its only land people are left with,” he said.
“We need to find a solution” Otunnu said “Andrew told me, “do not let anyone play with the land of Acholi, Lango, West Nile, Bunyoro and the rest of the country.””
Dr Otunnu said Museveni perpetrated genocide in Acholi and was using his last chip to cleanse the tribe by removing their land.
Amuru district police commander Jacinto Oburu said the police have deployed in Lakang to keep security and not to harass people.
“The police outpost in Lakang is not to charge anybody but to keep only security, not to record statements,” Oburu said.
“They are using such accusation to malign the police name and image to justify their criminal acts,” Oburu added.