Magistrate Calls For Tough Guidelines On Land Acquisition

The Gulu Court and Chief Magistrate’s Court

The Amuru and Nwoya district grade Two Magistrate Mr Joseph Angole has called on the district land committees to intensify reviews on applications for leasehold titles before granting them to individuals and investors in the district.

Speaking in a recent interview with Acholi Times, Mr Angole said land officials in the two districts have been leasing out huge chunks of lands to investors and private individuals without taking into account those who were already occupying the land.

The Magistrate noted that such decisions have caused numerous land conflicts.

“Every time a person applies for land, there could be someone who was already on the land. But you find that in some instances, the lands are given titles minus proper survey done, the district land officials have to come with action plans for those who will be affected in such circumstance” said Mr Angole.

The magistrate suggested that if land disputes are to be solved, district officials should sit together with the technical people and develop a guideline on how applications especially for huge chunks of land should be handled adding that transparency should be taken into account.

The magistrate’s remarks comes against the backdrop of investigations by the Justice Catherine Bamugemereire led commission into land matters in the country.

Early last month, the commissioners quizzed the Nwoya district land Board Chairperson Mr Zeru Abuka over alleged connivance in the issuance of a lease hold title to Ms Harriet Aber to occupy 1,000 hectares land in Got Okwara village, in Lungulu sub-county.

The commission established during a public hearing held in Gulu town that about 14 locals had earlier applied to obtain a lease hold title for the land but Mr Zeru instead hurriedly granted a lease hold title to Ms Aber who had applied later.

More than 100 households occupying the disputed land were in June last year violently evicted from the land by Uganda People’s Defence Army soldiers on orders of Ms Aber who is known in Gulu  and beyond as ‘‘wife’’ to President Museveni’s younger brother, Gen Salim Saleh.

On Thursday last week the land probe commissioners, George Bagonza and Robert Ssebunya visited Amuru district to establish how lease hold titles for huge chunks of land are granted by the land board.

One lease in which the commissioners picked interest was the issuance of leasehold titles to Omer farming Ltd to occupy 6,000 acres of land which had residents who were later violently evicted.

Mr Bagonza urged the district land officials to conduct proper survey of the lands to establish proper boundaries and original settlers before approving application of leasehold.

Amuru district LCV Chairperson Mr Michael Lakony acknowledged that the current land disputes in the district is to be blamed on the land board committees for not following set procedures.

But the Amuru district land board chairperson Mr Sixtus Okumu in an interview with this denied the allegations saying they have been following the necessary procedures in processing titles for lands.

A total of 175 cases of land disputes have been registered by the commission of inquiry on land matters in the Acholi sub-region with the bulk of cases being in Nwoya and Amuru district.