Contested. Casual workers weed a maize plantation on one of the farms within the contested area at Obira East Village, Gotapwoyo Sub-county in Nwoya District on April 20. PHOTO | TOBBIAS JOLLY OWINY
An upsurge in wrangles over land between the Jonam and Acholi communities in former Aswa-lolim Game Reserve in GotapwoyoSub-county, Nwoya District, has claimed at least 10 lives and left scores injured in the past one year.
On May 21, Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) soldiers shot dead Kerukadho Ocaka, Socrate Onenrach, Walter Piwun and Innocent Taban at Obira South Village, Gotapwoyo Sub-county in Nwoya.
The incident occurred when an unidentified number of locals armed with machetes, bows, arrows and spears allegedly attacked a UPDF detach on a disputed piece of land within the former game reserve owned by Lt Gen Charles Otema Awany, the UPDF Reserve Forces commander.
On June 8, police at Pakwach Central Police Station blocked a group of more than 100 demonstrators from crossing Pakwach Bridge as theyattempted to show grievance over the killings and mistreatment of their colleagues.
The district police commander, Mr Frank Muzura, said the demonstration was against the presidential directives on Covid-19, which prohibit gatherings of more than 10 people.
Efforts to reach Gen Otema via his known telephone contact over the issue have proved futile.
However, Mr Richard Todwong, Gen Otema’s brother, told Daily Monitor that his brother rightfully acquired the land.
“On behalf of the Awany family, we have never grabbed any land there, he (Gen Otema) has not even cheated any landowner of a penny, we paid for all we have there, including buying others’ interests there,” Mr Todwong said.
Mr Todwong claimed Gen Otema had leasehold titles from the district land board for the contested land including that at Obira Village where the shooting happened.
Although survivors claim they had gone to Gen Otema’s farm to negotiate for release of their properties that had been confiscated by the soldiers who ordered them to vacate the land, police said the victims were armed and intended to attack the soldiers.
The incident brings to 10 the total number of people killed over land contests within the area between May 2019 and May 2020.
Mr Ben Latim Openy, the Gotapwoyo Sub-county chairperosn, said of 14 incidents of attacks, members of the Jonam community that crossed from Pakwach District had committed 12.
Mr Openy said members of Jonam community strongly believe and treat the former reserve as their customary-owned land.
“The claimants ignore our offices and that of the sub-county land committee, and instead report to Pakwach authorities accusing Acholi of displacing them,” Mr Openy added.
Although Gen Otema reportedly possess at least 10,000 acres within the former game reserve, we could not independently verify this from the district land office.
“Several mediations in the past by the political and cultural leaders have not helped. The Lands ministry must come to the ground and declare the status of this land so that the matter is sorted out once and for all,” Mr Openy said.
In 2014, a meeting convened by Mr Todwong (then Minister without portfolio) to resolve the dispute between the Acholi community and Jonam people over ownership of land turned rowdy when the Jonam accused theleadership of Nwoya of threatening to evict them from an area they once occupied for decades before fleeing to West Nile for safety when the Lord’s Resistance Army war intensified.
Mr Todwong then prematurely closed the meeting.
Last year, the two tribes were embroiled in a heated conflict over a compensation scheme by Uganda Electricity Transmission Company Limited (UETCL) for a 9sqkm stretch of land at Yagopino, in Gotapwoyo Sub-county, Nwoya.
UETCL assessed 45 project-affected persons reportedly of Acholi origin but a new group of 65 project-affected persons turned up fromPakwach demanding compensation since they are the rightful owners of the land.
Leaders speak out
Mr Ruoth Moses Ogenwrot Omach, the leader of Paroketo Parish in Pakwach, on Monday warned that unless the two tribes urgently sit and mediate the matter, the situation could get out of hand.
“We don’t want to be pulled into the situation of Madi or Acholi in Apaa because some parties failed to play their cards rightly. After the insurgency, people resettled there again and the land board needed to act impartially,” Mr Omach said.
On Tuesday, Mr Emmanuel Ongiertho, the Jonam County Member of Parliament in an interview with Daily Monitor, blamed the protracted conflicts over the land on the Nwoya District Land Board whom he said had failed to act impartially and objectively in issuing out the land.
“We have records of so many of our people whose application documents for the land have never been validated from the time whthe land was still under Amuru. That problem has persisted, the land board considers more those from the Acholi side,” Mr Ongiertho said.
Because of delayed consideration of their applications, Mr Ongiertho said many Jonam people settled on the land although it was never inspected.
He added that the same land was allocated by the district to other developers, sparking conflict.
“Unfortunately, the Acholi chief, Rwot David Onen Achana is still out of the country, otherwise we would have held a meeting to seek solutions” Mr Ruoth Ogenrwot said.
He added that thousands of Jonam people are peacefullysettled in Amuru District because their land board allowed them to apply for the land they previously occupied.
But Nwoya District authorities insist that there was no need to inspect the land priorto leasing whether occupied or not since the settlers encroached and settled there illegally.
“It is unfortunate that these victims are fronting customary claims over this land. Instead, our brothers and sisters from across the Nile (Pakwach or Nebbi) come with letters from their districts to claim land there, that is unacceptable,” Mr Zeru Abukha, the chairman Nwoya land board, said.
Mr Abukha said whoever does not have titles to justifyownership of land in that area is occupying it illegally.
“For example, the attackers who were shot dead trespassed into a property owned by Gen Otema. Fortunately, Gen Otema possess a title for the piece of land in question,” Mr Abukha said.
Aswa-Lolim Game Reserve
Nearly 95 per cent of Gotapwoyo Sub-county land falls under the former Aswa-Lolim Game Reserve (measuring approximately 46,000 hectares in size).
When the colonial government declared the area a game reserve in 1952, the evacuated people were compensated by relocation to safer areas in Gulu, Pader, Lamwo and Amuru while the Jonam were resettled insidePakwach and Nebbi districts.
The status remained so until 1972 when it was degazetted as a wild animal sanctuary and handed to the respective local governments (district land boards).
As early as 2008 following an end to the LRA war, people started to return to the area to settle or do farming, the same period wrangles began to escalate.
However, members of both Jonam and Acholi communities rushed to occupy plots or chunks of land within Aswa-lolim area basing on customary claims.
But any land deal done on a former public land without the involvement of the district land board becomes null and void since one must go through the board to process and possess a deed title, so that they can own the land.
Original Post: Daily Monitor
Beijing proposes seven-point plan for upgrading China-Africa cooperation
Chato, Tanzania | XINHUA | The 2018 Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) has achieved great success and become a new monument to China-Africa friendly cooperation, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Friday.
Wang made the remarks at a joint press conference here with Tanzanian Minister of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation Palamagamba Kabudi during his official visit to the African country.
Wang noted that over the past two years, China has fully implemented the eight major initiatives with African countries proposed at the Beijing Summit.
Cooperation in areas of industrial promotion, infrastructure connectivity, trade facilitation, green development, capacity building, health care, people-to-people exchange, and peace and security have been carried out in a comprehensive way, he said, adding that the overall implementation rate has exceeded 70 percent.
Noting that China-Africa cooperation on the “Belt and Road” is progressing smoothly, Wang said over 1,100 cooperation projects continue to operate during the epidemic.
Meanwhile, nearly 100,000 Chinese technical and engineering personnel also stick to their posts to coordinate and promote epidemic prevention and control as well as resume work and production, making important contributions to local economic and social development.
The friendship between Chinese and African people has continued to grow and the two sides have established 11 pairs of new sister cities, bringing the total number to 150, said Wang,
Furthermore, the China-Africa Institute has been inaugurated, a number of Confucius Institutes have been set up in Africa and exchanges in sectors of sports, health, tourism and youths between the two sides have yielded fruitful results, Wang added.
Wang noted that despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, it will not stop China and Africa from moving forward together. The two sides are scheduled to hold a new session of the FOCAC in Senegal later this year.
“China is ready to enhance communication with our African friends and we will carefully design the outcomes of the meeting and upgrade China-Africa cooperation based on the new situation, new needs and new opportunities of China-Africa cooperation,” said Wang.
A seven-point plan for upgrading of China-Africa cooperation is also proposed by Wang.
- –China will strengthen health cooperation, work together with Africa to completely defeat the epidemic, help Africa enhance its capacity to prevent and respond to major diseases, and jointly build a “Healthy Africa”.
- –China will enhance production capacity cooperation and upgrade China-Africa project cooperation to a more clustered, large-scale, industrialized and localized scale. China will help Africa raise its capacity for independent production and jointly build a “Made in Africa”.
- –China will strengthen regional connectivity, explore China-Africa free trade cooperation, and help Africa enhance internal infrastructure connectivity, unimpeached trade and financial integration so as to jointly build an “Inter-connected Africa”.
- –China will strengthen agricultural cooperation, carry out cooperation in grain production, storage and transportation, help Africa strengthen its food security and guarantee capability to jointly build a “Harvest Africa”.
- –China will strengthen digital cooperation, give full play to China’s technological advantages, help Africa seize the opportunity of the information revolution and jointly build a “Digital Africa”.
- –China will carry out environmental protection cooperation, practice the concept of sustainable development, help Africa improve its ability to cope with climate change and jointly build a “Green Africa”.
- –China will strengthen military security cooperation, promote political solutions of critical issues in Africa, help Africa enhance its peacekeeping and anti-terrorism capabilities, and jointly build a “Safe Africa”.
Wang also expressed confidence that with the joint efforts of both sides and under the guidance of the forum mechanism, China-Africa cooperation will continue to bear fruits and make greater contribution to the building of a closer China-Africa community with a shared future.
Trauma and wounds caused by evictions in Kiryandongo still fresh three years down the road…
By witnessradio.org Team
Kiryandongo-Uganda -Anna Maria Mukabariyanga a mother of four is one of the people that have tested the wrath of Kiryandongo Sugar Limited. It’s one of the multinational companies that have evicted over 35000 people to pave way for different projects
Mukabariyanga a resident of ranch 23 was attacked by security operatives of Kiryandongo Sugar, beaten, and thrown out of her house on the fateful night that left many homeless.
She was pregnant and in the process, she had a miscarriage.
“I was 8 months pregnant when the armed operatives attacked us, beat me up on the back. My husband was away and had no one to come to my rescue. I was thrown down by one of the evictors who continued beating me,” Says Anna Maria Mukabariyaga.
“In five days, I started bleeding but could not go to the hospital because I did not have money and later on I lost my lost child. However, I was later taken to Kiryandongo Hospital by neighbors in the area I had moved to”. She adds.
Such violent repression is the tale of villagers in Kiryandongo who were never consulted or given information privy to the eviction.
“I heard notices over the radio that, people should prepare to have their land valued for compensation but that did not trickle down to us in form of meetings”. Said 78-year old Bakaikara Edward, a resident of Kakoba village, Kitwala Sub County in Kiryandongo district.
Bakaikara says, the advert ran for two months and later evictions started.
“I was born and raised on this land by the late Kamiri Kajula. My siblings and I have been staying here since childhood. They cultivated and lived on 400 hectares as a family”. He narrates.
“I had also developed the land as a farmer, but all crops were destroyed, I have nothing to feed the family on.” He added.
“Our hearts are broken. Our children are not going to school and we do not have food. We are very angry and hungry too,” Another resident only identified as Joyce chorused in as Mr. Bakaikara told his story.
Before the agribusiness companies came in, Badudu and the other small farmers of Kiryandongo planted beans, maize, sweet potatoes, bananas, groundnuts, cassava, and mangoes, and reared pigs, goats, and cows.
Much of their former land is now occupied by sugarcane, coffee, soya, and maize which are all solely exported for profits.
Joseph Walekula one of the community leaders in Kiryandongo says, many people have been turned into beggars and reduced to working on land that they used to own.
“When Kiryandongo sugar company limited came in, people lost their land, no due compensation was done. Many people joined refugee camps where they live up to now, others ran away, and we don’t know where they are.” Says Mr. Walekula.
This is all happening under the watch of government bodies and security agencies like Police that have instead turned against the communities in defense of the investors.
Kiryandongo Sugar is owned by the Rai dynasty operating agribusiness and timber activities in DR Congo, Uganda, Kenya, and Malawi. One of its directors is a shareholder of a British Virgin Islands company, which was listed in the Panama Papers database
It arrived in 2017, owns about 2400 hectares of sugarcane plantation project in Kiryandongo, and one of the three multinational projects that have continuously evicted people in the area.
Others are the; Great Season SMC Limited, a Dubai-based company reportedly owned by Sudanese businessmen building a coffee plantation on 1,165 hectares, and Agilis Partners, a company owned by US businessmen and backed by several foreign development agencies and “social impact” investors establishing a large-scale grains farm on around 3,850 hectares.
CONFIRMED! Abducted lawyers found at Special Investigations Unit of Uganda Police Force at Kireka…
By witnessradio.org Team
23rd/12/2020; Kampala – Uganda – It is confirmed that the five lawyers that were abducted by unidentified armed men are being held at the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) of police based at Kireka, a Kampala suburb. The development happened after lawyers, and the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) were granted access to speak to them today. UHRC is a constitutional body in Uganda mandated to protect, promote, and uphold human rights in Uganda.
The five include Kampala-based renowned lawyer Nicholas Opiyo, members of the Witness Radio legal team Anthony Odur, and Esomu Simon Peter Obure.
Others include Herbert Dakasi and Hamid Tenywa, a National Unity Platform (NUP) human rights Officer.
Members of our legal team were given chance to speak to the human rights commission and disclosed the brutal arrests during their abduction
According to Esomu and Odur, they were beaten inside a van that was used to abduct them and they had bruises on their body. While Nicholas Opiyo was in a jovial mood at the time of speaking to lawyers and UHRC teams.
Elly Womanya, the SIU commandant confirmed that the victim lawyers were given medication at their arrival, however, did not name which agency abducted the lawyers.
At the time of writing this article, all the victim lawyers had no idea about the cause of their arrest, had not recorded statements and no charges were preferred against them.
However, via its social media channels, police accuse Opiyo and the four of money laundering.
The five lawyers yesterday at 2:45 PM Uganda time were abducted from Lamaro restaurant in Kamwokya, a Kampala suburb.
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