Gilbert Olanya was elected Member of Parliament (Independent) in the recently contested elections of February 2011 and now sets to deliver on his promises. Although, the elections were marred by intimidation, voter buying, ballot stuffing and a biased Electoral Commission, the results which the opposition said they would not recognise has stood ever since with the full participation of same opposition that called it a sham. Acholi Times Entertainment correspondent Eunice Lamunu caught up with the Member of Parliament and spoke to him about work, people and district.
Born on the 16 December 1977 in Lamogi Akiri, Hon Gilbert is married with two children. He went to St Joseph’s primary school, Lango College for O- Level and Gulu High School for A- Level from where he joined Uganda Christian University for Bachelors in Education, where later went back for a master’s degree in Administration and Management.
A teacher by profession, Hon Gilbert has lectured at Kampala International University and Unyama National Teachers College before he opening up his own school called Bweyale Public Senior Secondary school.
In 2006, he joined politics, and was elected as the LC5 councillor for Amuru sub- County under the FDC ticket and served as the Secretary for health for five years before being elected as the current Member of Parliament, replacing Nyeko Michael Ocula.
Can you please share with us some of the challenges being faced in Amuru especially issues concerning land, and of course their solutions.
Amuru district has so many kinds of conflict associated with land; there are conflicts between relatives and brothers fighting one another. Before the war, many relatives would come from different areas and settle together in one place, and now after returning from the camps, with large families, it means there is need for more land for cultivation, and since we have been stripped of our wealth and anything meaningful, land is all that is left; so you find that relatives who are returning are turning on each other for land.
There are also conflicts between clans and sub- counties fighting for a particular area. The leaders have however embarked on a serious sensitisation of these communities about the importance and ownership of land based on the constitution of 1995 which states that when someone settles on a particular peace of land for more than 20 years, then they become part of that community and no one has the right to chase them away. The people are beginning to understand, and hopefully the fight will calm down.
“However, the biggest challenge we have now is that between the local community and the investors, to be specific the Madhivani Group of Companies.
They went and demanded for over 200,000 hectares of land and the community perceived it wrongly because they did not use the right channels, they went through the state house, state operatives and the and the RDCs office, and you know in Uganda any thing that involves the military automatically makes people to think that the government is behind the grabbing of the land.
As Acholi leaders, we have told the people that the government will not grab their land, and slowly the people are beginning to understand. Despite all that effort, the method Madhivani is using is still very wrong, because as we talk now, they are trying to move through the RDCs office, the people should however be calm, we don’t want them to fight over land, and no one will ever succeed in taking our land using the wrong approach. This does not mean that we are against investors.
Many countries and even districts in Uganda have grown because of investment, without investment, one can never prosper. So as leaders we welcome any investor who is interested in coming to Acholi but we need the approach and process of acquiring the land for investment to be clear. We want a particular investor to come straight to the land owners, who will give their conditions directly to that investor. For instance the investor has to hire the land, and not to buy it, they can hire as much land as they want. When they set up their industry, the community should be the out growers and suppliers of that particular industry - even sugar canes - if the investor accepts, then we give them the land, if they can not abide by our conditions, they can go and look for land elsewhere.
The land we have is the only source of livelihood for our children and grand children. So the strong message we have for investors interested in coming to Acholiland is that there is no land for sale, they can come and hire as much land as they want. This is because once we sell the land; ownership ceases to be ours and that means we have stopped progress for our children and grand children in the years to come.
What about UWA and the game reserve evictions?
The most recent of the conflicts facing Amuru is from Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), they have come claiming large chunks of land that it belongs to UWA, on the 17th of June, they burnt peoples houses and property in the name of evicting them from the “game reserve” which they claim was given to them in 2002, yet for us we know that in 1972, Amin’s regime gazetted all the game reserves like Aswa Ranch, communities were left settled and not disturbed in this manner.
When they said parliament gave them the mandate, we told them in 2002 all the Acholi community were in the camps, that means the local people were not consulted, and as we all know, before any development initiative is put in place the local people have to be the ones to spear head it. So it means that even if the government truly gave the land to UWA, it was void and we as Acholi people will never recognise it, because people were still in the camps. There is a meeting scheduled to take place with the UWA management and we hope to settle the problem amicably.
And then the Bibia conflict?
About the tribal conflict in Bibia, this is a result of the Madi from Adjumani and Nimule claiming the ownership of that land. However, we know the history of the area and the problem came as a result of the demarcation of district boundaries. What we are telling the people is that lets leave the issue of boundaries for the time being, let people continue with their normal lives since everyone is still traumatised. When it comes to issues of taxes, people should pay in the particular district they find themselves demarcated to. If you are an Acholi and the boundary puts you in Adjumani, then you pay your taxes there and the same applies to the Madis in Acholi side. There is no need to fight one another when we have been living together and getting along , the boundaries are meant for administration purposes, not to cause divisions among the local people.
What is your vision for your people?
I have a great vision for my people, with my main one being to uplift the education standards in the district because education is the key to success. We have already designed programs with the DEO, the office of the CAO and the LC5. We are now working together to make sure that we motivate the teachers to concentrate on their work, through that we shall uplift the education standards of our schools to match those in the city. Another emphasis is also being put on improving agriculture, being the backbone of our economy, I am lobbying funds from the government and I am happy that there are tractors that will be delivered soon and I hope to get more materials to help improve agriculture in my district. I am also working on getting the road from Gulu to Juba worked upon; this will help in improving access to markets for the agriculture products.
What about corruption, how do you intend to fight corruption?
Corruption is very difficult to fight, one bad thing with this government is that corruption normally starts with people in very high authority; therefore it becomes difficult to control. However, in my capacity, I will ensure that people benefit from the resources that are sent to the district. We shall make sure that we follow up programs like NUSAF, and NAADS so that our people can benefit. I will appeal to those leaders in high positions to mind about the people who are suffering down there.
To the people in northern Uganda, its true that we have lagged behind for over 23 years, the only thing that will make us to progress and reach the level of other districts is to send our children to school. This has worked for the Luo in Kenya, the Luo were far much behind and they were really being marginalised in Kenya and this man Odinga, the father of Raila Odinga advised them to concentrate on books, one day, one time their glory would shine, now the most educated tribe in Kenya are the Luos, most of the professors and doctors are Luos, they have regained their lost glory.
Thank you Honourable Olanya Gilbert MP for talking to Acholi Times, we are hopeful that what you preach will be mirrored in your actions, and hereby wish you the best. By A Web design Company
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