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100 Pastoralists Occupying 20,000 Acres Of Land In Amuru

Long horned Ankole cattle grazing in Okidi Parish, Atiak Subcounty in Amuru District.

A total of 20,502 acres of land (approximately 32 square miles) are currently being occupied by pastoralists in various sub-counties of Amuru District.

According to information obtained by our reporter, the vast chunks of land are being owned by 124 livestock keepers from Western and South Western Uganda, rearing an estimated 11,766 heads of cattle.

The livestock keepers include senior army officers, a Doctor and businessmen among others from Isingiro, Masindi, Lyantonde, Rakai, Kiboga, Mbarara, Kiruhura, Kyenjojo, Kyegegwa, Sembabule, Nakasongola, Kyamkwanzi, and Kamwenge districts. 

Reports from a recent verification conducted by security and local leaders in the district show the concentration of the pastoralists are high in the Sub-counties of Lakang, Opara, Pogo, Pabbo, Atiak, and parts of Elegu Town council.

According to the reports, a total of 103 of the pastoralists bought off the land in the respective sub-counties while only 21 are renting/hiring from the landowners. The report has however shocked some security, political and cultural leaders in the region.

Ambrose Olaa, Prime Minister Ker Kwaro Acholi (Acholi Cultural Institution) says that the land could have been acquired through manipulation and exploitation. He says there is a need to delve into understanding how the land was sold out to the current holders since traditionally in Acholi land is customarily owned.

Olaa notes that sales of land in such quantity with no clear consent is destroying the foundation of the society, adding that a number of people have since been displaced with no access to using their land.

According to Olaa, there is a need by the local leaders in the region to collectively build a case against such acquisition of land by understanding whether the processes undertaken were just and the prices set for sale were fair.

Amuru Resident District Commissioner, Geoffrey Osborn Oceng acknowledges the sale of large chunks of land is becoming rampant and called on leaders in various capacities to come up with initiatives that stop the vice.

Oceng suggests that coming up with an ordinance in the respective district local governments will be a step in a good direction to legally stop rampant sales of land to the pastoralists.

But he notes that there must also be countermeasures in addressing poverty citing that most of those selling their lands are poverty-stricken and looking for means of survival.

Oceng says last year alone, they received 162 cases of land conflicts arising from the activities of pastoralists in the district but notes that they haven’t been able to resolve them since some accusers didn’t formally lodge their issues.

Recently, the State Minister for Internal Affairs Gen. David Muhoozi ordered the eviction of all illegal pastoralists from the region following complaints from community members and local leaders. 

Some of the pastoralists are accused of fueling land wrangles, destroying traditional sites, misuse of wetlands, crop destruction, and community water sources.

Joyce Keren, the LCV Woman Councilor Atiak Sub-county where the bulk of the pastoralists in the district are settled says many complaints in the past were raised over questionable sales of lands to the pastoralists.

She says in some cases, an individual along with the LCI Chairperson sells away hundreds of acres of land without notifying their clan members and the community which brought in conflicts.

She notes that during the few years of pastoralists’ existence in the sub-county especially in Okidi Parish, they have registered numerous complaints ranging from land conflicts, moral decays, and defilement among others.

In Atiak Sub-county specifically, the local authorities have since issued a ban on any land transaction to pastoralists following complaints from the community.

The Greater Atiak Sub-county Chairperson Kenneth Okot told URN in an interview that few pastoralists in the area had heeded the Presidential directives and have since been ordered to vacate the area.

He however notes that only three of the pastoralists out of more than 80 have voluntarily left the district or sold off their cattle in compliance with the directives.

-URN

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