There is growing risk of social instability and even violence if the government does not take effective action to address rising public anger about the forced evictions by Uganda Wild Life Authority, assisted by the police and army in Apaa Sub-County, Amuru district.
Over 4000 people have so far been forcefully evicted from their land. Those evicted claim that they had neither been given prior notice nor consulted on the planned evictions. Some of them, including children, were beaten up by the enforcement officials and suffered injuries as a result of the disproportionate force used, others had their belongings and houses destroyed.
It is an open secret that land in Uganda has become one of the most important ways through which political influence is practiced. For example, the discretionary allocation of publicly-owned land to individuals or organisations has become one of the means through which political patronage is being rewarded. This in fact renders the land upon which informal tenures such as customary, prime for "grabbing".
"Land grabbing" — a term commonly used to describe the irregular allocation or sale of public land to individuals to reward political patronage — has escalated in recent years. Regardless of the actual cause, the perpetrators of these forced evictions are justifying their actions in the name of ‘development’ – and, by implication, as intended for the general public good.
However, development that leads to forced evictions is not only illegal in terms of international law; it is also fundamentally counterproductive to the aims of genuine human development.
The people being evicted by UWA have settled on this land for generations even before the park was gazetted. As we have seen with the inhuman manner in which the eviction is being carried out, the results are destructions of property and productive assets, homelessness and obstruction of access to water, sanitation, healthcare, livelihood opportunities and education. It equally interferes with the efforts of well-intentioned development agencies.
The government’s carefully planned strategy to acquire chunks of land in Acholi – weather through UWA or Madhivani will have serious social consequences as it is giving grounds for resentment and disheartening people’s ability in the struggle to rebuild livelihoods following forced internment, and a two year decade of a brutal war.
If the current wave of eviction is not halted, a new war will emerge; one that will eventually engulf the whole region, because evicted individuals, families and communities do not disappear, without anything to lose – having lost the last asset in their possession: Land - they fight for their survival.
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