By Morris Komakech.
If the land issue is not handled well, a possibility of a return to insurgency may become a reality
The scenes of resistance by women of Apaa village in Amuru district should remind this government that vulnerability can drive people to extreme measures in their defence. Certainly, the sight of naked elderly women thrusting themselves in full view of over 10,000 residents demonstrated a resolve of the people of Amuru beyond recourse. The Internal Affairs Ministers and his Lands counterparts had gone to Amuru to supervise the usurpation and forceful eviction of the residents from their land but they were effectively resisted by acts of heroism by naked village women.
That triumph may just be temporary, but the message has been sent. The people of Apaa must prepare for a long protracted struggle because it appears that the government has already resolved to evict them, given the show of force that was displayed on April 1.
Locating Apaa village in Adjumani District should not evoke the vulnerability of the people of Amuru. If Apaa village is in Amuru, then the residents of that village will start to pay taxes and seek services from administration of Adjumani.
What is happening in Amuru is considered land usurpation by this regime. The approach should make the entire Acholi population nervous and panicky over their land where government hold the monopoly over coercion. In fact, if the land issue is not handled well, a possibility of a return to insurgency may become a reality in a very near future.
Some commentators referred to the heroic actions of the women of Apaa as relapse of post-traumatic stress syndrome. As such, the nakedness was a deviant act, out of character and depth. They found it easy to blame the local leaders, members of the opposition, and the potential victims as uncivilised. As usual, these agents provided the state with the justification needed to unjustly proceed with future exercise of land usurpation.
It is obvious that issues of boundaries of land in Africa and in Uganda were already decided by colonial regimes. These records exist somewhere at Entebbe Land offices or at least in government custody, or even at colonial archives in London (UK). One would also expect that local governments are fully aware of their boundaries.
One fact that we are all sure of is that the rural village of Apaa belongs to some administrative jurisprudence and to resolve this problem, a well intending government should have acted objectively. This would involve providing evidence of the colonial boundary, conducting survey to establish the facts, and then asking people to decide to remain or relocate as per objective evidence. By evicting Apaa villagers forcefully, it demonstrates that the government is no longer impartial to the process. Supposing the people of Apaa village decide that they will remain in whichever district the boundaries place them, what justification would the government use to displace them?
The problem with Amuru is not just about Apaa boundary, but rather, it is a frontline of a sustained interest on that land. In fact, to speculate that the people of Amuru do not support development is an understatement. Everywhere, people are eager to embrace development and to transform redundant land into commercial entity willingly, but not forcefully.
However, it must be made public that the people of Amuru and Acholi at large can see through the ploy of this regime. First, it is very important to retrieve the report drawn by Divinity Union Ltd of 1998/9 and the Security and Production Program of 2003. Divinity Union is the company that brought much attention to Amuru and Acholiland, and perhaps, helped change the interest of President Museveni on Northern Uganda.
This company was owned by the President’s brother, Gen. Salim Saleh. Its interest was to transform Acholiland into breadbasket for Africa and in the process uproot Acholi people from land ownership to providers of cheap labour on commercial farms under the Ministry of defence. This report was widely debated at the 6th Parliament when Norbert Mao and the Acholi inter-faith groups stood firm in defence of the interned Acholi.
Divinity Union’s report or proposal had suggested that the whole of Amuru and parts of Adjumani was so fertile that it could produce enough food for the whole of Africa. The report deliberately concealed the fact that Amuru district sits on a big swath of oil deposits.
Later, when the plan was defeated by popular logic, the government declared that oil was discovered in Amuru. The government swiftly moved to earmark 40,000 hectares of Amuru land for Madvhani sugarcane plantation. Does the forceful claim of Apaa residents now come into contention as an isolated occurrence?
I believe that the women of Amuru were heroic revolutionists who used their bare chests to halt the unjust eviction from the land they have occupied for years. The government has a plan to hand Apaa to Adjumani and later claim it for their so-called investors. This is an inhuman agenda that must be resisted by any means possible by people in Amuru and Adjumani alike.
Morris Komakech is a social critic and political analyst from Pajule, Pader, Uganda. Can contact via [email protected]