Former Acholi Parliamentary Group Chair, Okello- Okello Writes to Minister Amongi Over Amuru Land
1. You will recall that soon after your appointment to be in charge of the land docket, you gave me a call on 9th June 2016, requesting to have a chat and “tap your brains as someone who had worked in lands for a long time and is knowledgeable in land matters before I embark on this new responsibility.”
I was attending Wang-OO meeting in Gulu, but I agreed to meet you anytime during the following week when in Kampala. You promised to give me a call and advise where to meet for the conversation. I am still waiting for that call. But this is for another time.
2. Today I write an open letter to you following a statement attributed to you in the Daily Monitor of Monday, July 31, 2017, page one and two: “Government to use force over Amuru Land,” it partly read and continued: “Anyone thinking of stopping (next week’s) survey of this land or anyone who is thinking of stopping the acquisition of this land is dreaming. I have come with all the power from the government to ensure that this land is surveyed,” you were quoted as saying. These words sent a chill down my spine.
3. Amuru land saga started eleven years ago, ten years before you became a minister. It is likely to remain an issue long after you have left the current portfolio you are holding. When it started, the person occupying the chair you are sitting on now was Hon. Daniel Omara Atubo. Both of you hail from Lango community, a permanent neighbour to Acholi community. Have you ever asked yourself why this should be the case? If you have not, I think you had better do so. Do you see any political game in it?
4. Methods of land acquisition are known worldwide. The main ones are: inheritance, purchase, gift, and acquiescence. Military might and force of arms are not methods of land acquisition. They can only qualify as methods of land grabbing.
5. I see some technical difficulty with your proposed compulsory and militarised survey. In Acholi, people hold their parcels of land scattered in several places. Even the parcels of those who have “consented” may not be adjacent in one block. They may be mixed with the parcels of those who have not consented. How will the survey proceed in such a situation? How will the parcels of those who have declined to welcome the project be excluded?
6. You should be reminded that on February 26, 1885, seven European nations assembled at the Berlin Conference and Belgium’s King Leopold, while reminding them about the urgency to colonise and share out the African continent told them: “We are here to see how we should divide among ourselves this magnificent African cake.” Indeed, they came, chopped up and shared Africa among themselves with exception of Ethiopia, calling their spheres of influence after their countries thus ‘German’ Africa, ‘French Africa, ‘Belgium’ Africa etc. By use of the gun, they took the most fertile parts of Africa, pushing the rightful owners to the periphery, to the arid areas. As I write to you now, the colonialists are no more. They have left and in most countries the land is back to the Africans. In view of what is happening in Acholi sub region, I want to ask you: has there been a mini ‘Berlin’ conference here in Uganda to divide the magnificent Acholi cake among some people? Just Asking.
7. Land is the most important thing in the life of any human being. It is wealth, it is an asset (in our case the only one left), it is the first development capital, it is livelihood (ours), it is security, it is our culture, it is our all. How come that our people should be forced to give away their most precious possession free of charge to some so-called investor? What if it was your land, Madam Minister, how would you feel? There is no investor under the Sun who will put their money where the locals do not welcome it. Never. Is it really madhvani? Or is Madhvani’s name being used to camouflage land grabbing?
8. In the 8th Parliament, Acholi Parliamentary Group (APG) raised the question of precious minerals, including oil, under that land. APG then asked government to explore what is under the land first before this nonsense of sugar-cane growing could be considered. No one ever paid attention to this. Is it deliberate?
9. Madam Minister, in your own words, your project is unstoppable, least of all by the Acholi community. I do entirely agree with you. Due to the sufferings we have gone through in the last three decades, our community is now a shadow of what it was. Our livestock, which was our bank accounts, our pride, our security was swept (1987-93); the entire population was interred in concentration camps (glorified as internally displaced persons’ camps) for twenty years; poverty level is, perhaps, the highest in the whole world. All these have left us a broken community. Our brokenness is now being taken advantage of to grind us to dust. But remember, however tall a person may be, he or she cannot see tomorrow.
For God And My Country
Okello-Okello John Livingstone