The 3rd Joint Acholi Sub Region leadership meeting which was last week held at Bomah Hotel in Gulu district rightly heard from the deputy Paramount Chief of Acholi Rwot William Luygayi that the issuing of certificates to customary land ownership needs to be halted, as the exercise could be a recipe for bloodshed among the communities still recovering from the brutal two decades war between the government of President Yoweri Museveni and Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).
“We don’t want certificates of Customary land Ownership in Acholi land yet, we have to be careful by letting the people know the right things first,” the Deputy Paramount Chief told the audience.
The Constitution of Uganda says all citizens owning land under customary tenure may acquire certificate of ownership in a manner prescribed by Parliament. It also states that land under customary tenure may be converted into freehold land ownership by registration.
The central government recently vested the task of administering the customary land registration into sub- county local governments that are at the grass roots. President Yoweri Museveni has always said that opposition and backward leadership were the cause of disputes between land owners and tenants which are hindrances to the country’s development of much of its land.
But this is to miss the point that, while many in the sub region support development, others are wary of reforms that they fear could undermine social tradition in favour of modern exploitation and broad day light theft.
Many people are still only regaining access to their land after a two decades vacuum in which they were being held captive in internment camps, hence the reason for escalating land conflicts.
Acholi Times would like to commend Rwot Lugayi for his sober piece of advice and forward way of thinking and hope that the leaders will heed to it. The future generation of Acholi and our way of life must be protected if we want to remain an entity and our people prosper; the only way we can guarantee that safety net is by protecting our land and the rights to that land.
Currently, there appears to be no adequate institutional capacity to manage land or resolve land disputes. Acholi must remember that their land has always been the envy of foreigners, if today’s generation of Acholi fail to protect that land, that will be their own undoing, for which they must be harshly judged by future generations.
Why has Acholi failed to come up with an Acholi Land Commission or a Board of Trustees whose responsibility it is to hold the entire Acholiland in trust on behalf of the people of Acholi?
Why has Acholi failed to attach modern economic value to their land by coming up with viable policies for land tenure that is protected by the Ugandan constitution?
In initially allowing the issuing of certificates to go ahead, why did Acholi not see the need to support and strengthen socially legitimate informal institutions (clans) to manage land and post-conflict land disputes?
It is because of the lack of our Acholi consciousness, a lack of consciousness which has given us a confused and politically constructed identity which has laid us bare to the mercy of our predators. We don’t have a sense of our past and have no reality or bearing of the future.
Uganda’s National Land Policy, which was drafted following the setting up of a National Land Policy Working Group in 2011 to deliver a framework guiding land use in national development, and provides for the setting up of a customary land registry to support the registration of land rights under customary tenure and to issue Certificates of Title of Customary Ownership, giving rights equal to freehold tenure, has never been explained to the ordinary peasants in the villages.
We therefore agree with Rwot William Lugayi that the provisions in the Land Act and the National Policy, relevant to customary land tenure system, be translated into the local language and published to help educate the people to enable them act knowingly.
The leadership in Acholi must study the draft land policy careful and consult widely with the entire population in Acholi sub region in an effort to collect opinion for an effective land management.
We understand that there is no simple, formalized solution to this but we must remember that the livelihood of our people depends directly on land. The continued use and control of our communal lands will be key to the survival of our people and future generations of Acholi.
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