Dozens of lives have been lost and several investment projects delayed as land disputes rear an ugly head in Lango Sub-region, Daily Monitor has learnt.
Police tallied at least 92 murder cases from North Kyoga region (Lango) between January and May. The vast bulk of the murders were occasioned by land disputes, with shooting, poisoning, strangulation and use of blunt objects commonplace.
After the two-decade conflict perpetrated by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) insurgents in northern Uganda, land is the only key economic asset for many families in Lango.
In Lango Sub-region, which spans the nine districts of Lira, Oyam, Kole, Apac, Dokolo, Amolatar, Alebtong, Otuke, and Kwania, the majority of households view land as their only source of survival.
Local leaders say conflict over land arises when individuals — who often are blood relatives — compete for use of the same parcel of land.
It has not helped matters that land in the sub-region is increasingly scarce due to population increase over the past two decades. The current population growth means Lango might not have seen the worst yet.
Already, a number of lives have been lost. Last May, clashes involving a family and the administration of Akuca-witim Primary School over ownership of land housing the government school in Oyam District resulted in four deaths. The victims who included Charles Olet, Richard Amuju, Odongo and Omara were killed during a fist fight.
Last April, four people were killed following disputes over land in Lira and the neighbouring Alebtong districts. The victims lost their lives in what was believed to be a ruthless land grab by powerful relatives.
Land and Equity Movement in Uganda (Lemu) has noted that land grabs by powerful elites or even cabals account for most of the disputes.
Investment projects stall
Since 2011, there has been an ongoing dispute over utilisation of Aler farm pitting 332 locals against Lira District leadership.
The contentious territory spans 1,500 acres, covering 10 villages in Kole and Lira districts.
Mr George Okello Ayo, the Lira LC5 vice chairperson, claims the land under contention falls under Lira District, while residents say they own the land under customary ownership.
Consequently, on August 29, 2018, Mr Tom Ogwal Atoocon and 331 others sought court intervention in the matter. On September 11, 2018, Justice Alex Macky Ajiji, the former Lira resident judge, ruled in favour of the applicants.
“A temporary injunction doth issue restraining the respondent, her agents, servants or any person or persons deriving any rights, title or interest from her; from alienating, continuing with further trespass, cultivating, entering, interfering with the quiet enjoyment of the suit land…. or destroying the applicants’ crops therein till the disposal of the main suit,” the judge ruled.