Museveni Promises Amuru Residents Shares In Madhvani Sugar Project

President Museveni welcomes local leaders from Amuru at state house Nakasero

President Museveni welcomes local leaders from Amuru at state house Nakasero

President Yoweri Museveni last week cancelled his planned visit to the disputed area of Lakang in Amuru district on the 15th October, 2012.

As the dispute over the 40,000 hectares of land between the locals and the Madhvani Group of Companies remains largely unresolved, the President’s visit was intended to launch and officially open avenues for the Madhvani Group of Companies to operationalise the sugarcane growing project in Lakang.

The news of the launch raised a lot of emotional flare and uproar in Lakang and many other parts of Acholi, as a result the Museveni opted for a meeting with leaders from the region at State House Nakasero.

The team which was led by Member of Parliament for Kilak County Hon Gilbert Olanya is said to have protested before Museveni, the high court ruling in Gulu that declared the disputed land “communal” and handing it to Madhvani, Maj Gen Julius Oketta and Christine Atimango, a former district official.

“We told him that the people’s mood is not okay and so he can’t come. So that same Monday he called us to State House,” Olanya added.

According to Olanya, President Museveni admitted that Acholi land is owned communally and any development should not interfere with the interest of the land owners.  He also assured them that Amuru residents will get shares in the Madhvani sugar project as they are the rightful land owners.

“We told him that our people should also get shares as land owners but not only to work as labourers and he promised to use his power as the President to ensure everyone who owns land in the sugar project will have shares or something developmental depending on the negotiations,” Olanya said.

Museveni welcomes a bemused Betty Bigombe who is followed by Sam Engola and Bishop Ochola

A dossier read by retired Bishop of Kitgum district Macleod Barker Ochola II to the President outlined the pillars of land tenure in Acholi and how land has always been utilised.  Bishop Ochola said that “Acholi have hunting grounds, farming land, grazing land, homestead land among others, there is no empty land so the vast land is never public but customary.  These are the facts that the Judge failed to look into and also forgot that the Acholi were in the camps for along time due to the war.”

He added that many residents today embroiled in rampant land conflicts due to the internment in camps and that the occupiers of the disputed land in Lakang and Kololo “were in the advance stages of resettling back onto their land but got the shock of their lives when the land in question was declared public by the court.”

Bishop Ochola told that President that since the court of appeal has already put a stay of execution on the land, it is high time the ownership of land is transferred back to the people and then the issue of development can begin.

The team told Museveni that they want any investment in Amuru and Acholi sub-region should be at the benefit of the people through a properly developed agreement in the long run will not reduce residents to being slaves of the investors.

Bishop Ochola talks to President Museveni

Bishop Ochola talks to President Museveni

The meeting was also attended by the Inspector General of Police Maj General Kale Kiyihura, Attorney General Peter Nyombi and Ministers Sam Engola and Betty Bigombe.  The team presented a catalogue of human rights abuses by the police in Lakang, Ibanda, Kololo and Apar.

However, the Resident District Commissioner (RDC) of Amuru Major James Mwesigye accused Hon Olanya before the president that he had been instrumental in inciting the people of Amuru to attack the Police barracks and Wildlife Authority officers.

Olanya denied allegations and told the President that it is a trick the RDC is using to get him locked up in Luzira, but it is not going to work because all he wants is an understanding between any investor coming to Amuru and the residents who are the rightful owners of the lan

President Museveni directed Nyombi to work closely with lawyers representing the people in Amuru and see how best the land issue can be handled since the team complained that the land is customary but not public.

He also directed Kiyihura to investigate allegations levied against the Police in Amuru, Kayihura pledged to go to Amuru and listen from the locals directly before any action can be taken.