Land Disputes Dog Arua District

Land, in Uganda and indeed Africa, is not just any piece of earth whose owner can do with as they please. It is something that is treasured for social as much as economic reasons. However, as the country has grown and evolved from the pre-colonial days, land ownership and distribution has found its traditional lines blurred. This is why land disputes are a common occurrence, especially between tribes and among family members.

Arua, like other parts of Uganda, is suffering from rampant land-related clashes involving improper sale/acquisition as well as disputed ownership of cultural land. Aluma Fred says, “People are now killing each other over land in my community,” adding that such disputes have caused responsible members of his society to behave in appalling ways.

Being a melting pot of various tribes, these clashes often take the form of intertribal land brawls. Andama Isaac, another resident, informs us of a particularly vicious example. According to his report, two tribes, the Nunu and Nyanyi have lived with land misunderstandings extending well into the past. The Nyanyi, who claim to own the land on which the Nunu settled, were outraged a week ago when the some Nunu allegedly encroached on more Nyanyi land and used it for cultivation. What came out of this was a trail of attacks and counter-attacks in which a lot of property was lost. “44 houses were set ablaze in the ensuing chaos, as the two tribes attacked each other,” Andama says. There were no deaths reported although 5 people sustained injuries.

Such clashes are bound to keep occurring, especially in light of the change of tenure system from the more traditional methods. Communal land ownership, which was previously a source of family and tribal pride, is no longer a viable option given the changing times and land pressures. Acquisition of land by investors has become another source of misunderstandings. As more and more people migrate to urban areas, land in the rural areas is increasingly being sold and bought by large-scale cash-crop growers as well as factory owners. As Jurua Patrick reports, in Arua people have taken the issue of selling land as business, causing misunderstandings between the people and business owners. A similar report from Maracha District tells of food farms being taken over by a tobacco company which has taken to planting ‘fake’ eucalyptus trees.

Better news however coming out of Kapchorwa is of one Soyekwo Mustafa, an elderly resident of Bongwa Village who donated three quarters of his land to the community toward the construction of Kaplelko Health Center 2. Although the arrangement is yet to be made official, Musobo Michael, a resident, says Soyekwo’s generous gesture should be appreciated by the government. One hopes that such land will not cause disputes in the future as it did in this case in Lakwana subcounty, Gulu district (! An elderly woman informally gave her land for a community school but a year later found herself cash strapped and sold off the same piece of land. As a result, the school had to be demolished.

- Aug. 30, 2013
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