Land disputes have become common in northern Uganda, more so after the end of the Lord’s Resistance Army rebellion that saw locals leaving Internally Displaced People’s camps to rebuild their lives in their ancestral villages. The resettlement efforts in formally abandoned villages have led to increased demand for land and the likelihood of land disputes.
In the last few years, several reports of land disputes have been reported in northern Uganda some of the cases were violent and led to deaths. Land conflict being an emotive issue, it should be handled with utmost caution. Community leaders, in particular, need to take the lead to ensure brewing tensions over land are resolved to prevent violent attacks and revenge acts.
It is disappointing that year after year land-related conflicts continue to dominate news in the northern region, even in cases where past lessons could have helped in amicably resolving issues. Saturday Monitor, for instance, reported a case in Agago District where a long-running land dispute sparked off fighting between residents of Aciki village, Ogong Parish in Kotomor Sub-county and those from Lukwangole Parish in Patongo Sub-county.
The Agago District chairperson, Mr Peter Odok Oceng, criticised police and area cultural leaders for what he called “negligence in the land clashes” that left a four-year-old boy dead and 13 other people injured. According to Oceng, police should have been on high alert since this conflict is not new. Reports indicate that last year, 30 huts in Lukwangole village were burnt by Aciki village residents over 10,000 hectares of land in Aciki, which both sides claim. Since then, relations between the two villages have deteriorated.
The Agago incident reads like a replay of what has been happening in Apaa at the disputed border stretch between Adjumani and Amuru districts. Two weeks ago, 56 people were injured when soldiers and policemen raided Apaa Trading Centre in Paboo Sub-county, Amuru District, to reopen the disputed border land claimed by both Amuru and Adjumani district administrations. The government is evicting residents from the 40-square kilometre land, which is also claimed by the Uganda Wildlife Authority as a game reserve.
Apaa village Local Council chairperson Oringa Olego, and other local leaders, said the UPDF and police beat up the residents indiscriminately. Such brutality, as pictures taken from the scene of evictions showed, is unacceptable yet avoidable, especially when there are opportunities to resolve the matter amicably through honest dialogue.
While there is no single approach to prevent land conflicts, it is possible and necessary to use mediation to avoid bloodshed.
The issue: Land conflicts
Our view: While there is no single approach to prevent land conflicts, it is possible and necessary to use mediation to avoid bloodshed.
SOURCE: Daily Monitor