Gov’t Dragged to Court Over Aswa Ranch

Former Government Chief Valuer Livingstone Okello- Okello is one of the petitioners that have dragged government to court over Aswa Ranch

A group of political and religious leaders from the Acholi region have taken government to court over the leasing of Aswa ranch to private entities, according to a report by the Uganda Radio Network (URN).

URN reported last week that the leaders who dragged government to court include retired Supreme Court Judge, Galdino Okello Moro, retired Bishop of Kitgum Diocese, Macleod Baker Ochola II, retired teacher Rosalba Oywa and former Government Chief Valuer, Livingstone Okello-Okello and the Centre for Public Interest Law Limited.

The government is jointly sued  with land boards from Agago, Kitgum, Amuru, Gulu, Lamwo, Nwoya, Omoro and Pader Districts.

The applicants are challenging among others the presidential directive to Ministry of Agriculture on June 9th 2017 to allocate Aswa ranch to 20 individuals including companies with capacity to breed Ankole long horned cattle and others who can invest in livestock farming.

Aswa Ranch is found in Pader District and measures about 105,400 hectares. It is currently occupied by a number of companies and the National Animal Genetic Resources Centre – NAGRC, Banuti and Aswa Power Project.

In their petition, the applicants contend that the Constitution of Uganda, which came into force on October 8th 1995, returned all the land to the citizens of Uganda and the same was to be owned in accordance with the tenure systems provided for in the constitution. Through their lawyers, ALP Advocates, the petitioners want the land turned into customary tenure system.

The application is supported by the affidavit of retired Supreme Court Judge, Galdino Okello Moro who says that to the best of his knowledge, there is no vacant land in Acholi Sub region or any other region in Uganda. He says all land in Acholi is owned by various clans since time immemorial.

The petitioners want the Constitutional Court to declare that the actions of the District Land Boards to lease customarily owned land in Acholi Sub region on the basis that it is public land is inconsistent with the customary land tenure and the proprietary rights guaranteed in the constitution.

They also want court to pronounce that all gazetted land in Acholi belongs to Acholi communities under the customary tenure and it is to be managed by customary institutions and not the respondents. Court has summoned government to file its defense.

Information for this report was sourced from the Uganda Radio Network