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Gov’t sued for illegal extension of Aswa ranch boundaries

some of the long horned Ankole breed of cattle reared at Aswa Ranch in Pader District. Photo By Julius Ocungi

Gulu, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Acholi Cultural Institution and Members of Parliament under their umbrella body, the Acholi Parliamentary Group (APG) have sued the government over allegations of illegal extension of Aswa Ranch boundaries.

The plaintiffs led by the APG secretary for lands, investment, and infrastructure also Nwoya County MP Tony Awany filed the suit before the Deputy Registrar of the Gulu High Court Ntalo Nasulu Hussein on Friday.

The defendants in the suit are the Attorney General, Uganda Livestock Industries Ltd (ULI), a government parastatal, Banuti Ranchers Ltd, a private company ranching inside Aswa, ARPE Ltd, and the Commissioner of land Registration.

The plaintiffs, accuse Uganda Livestock Industries Ltd of fraudulently creating a new freehold title over the Aswa Ranch for 15,930.46 hectares inside Lamwo and another 25,516.6 hectares inside Pader without the due processes of the district land boards.

The land in question measuring 105.400 acres is being occupied by the National Animal Genetic Resources Centre and Data Bank (NAGRC & DB), Banuti Ranchers, Uganda Livestock Industries Ltd, and ARPE, the firm undertaking a hydropower dam construction at Aswa river.

Gilbert Olanya, the Kilak South MP told journalists at a press briefing in Gulu City that they have dragged the government over the illegal extension of the Aswa ranch boundaries.

He said a total of 68,000 acres of land was initially leased by the Acholi District council for beef production but over the years, the land has been illegally extended for different activities not benefiting the local community.

Olanya cited the recent allocation of more than 30,000 hectares of land to Uganda Prisons Services for commercial agriculture in Laguti Sub-county.

He notes that the development is affecting the local community who are being forcefully evicted and displaced from their communal land without any compensation.

Awany, said the suit isn’t a contestation of the government ranch but against the fraudulent extension of boundaries. He says a total of 37,400 acres of land have been extended from the original 68,000 acres which was fully compensated by the government.

Awany said it remains unclear to date who the custodian of the Aswa ranch is adding that they intend to get clarification on whether the ranch is under the management of NAGRC & DB, ULI, or the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF).

He said there is a need for the government to remain transparent on the user clause of the ranch which was initially for cattle ranching.

He noted that their next step as APG and the cultural institution is to file for a court injunction to halt any activities that are currently taking place on Aswa Ranch and other lands in the region.

The plaintiffs want court to declare that the conversion of a lease over Aswa Ranch land into freehold by ULI in Lamwo district is illegal and the cancel all land titles illegally created over disputed land.

They also want the court to declare that the land comprised in the Aswa Ranch measuring approximately 105,400 acres in Lamwo and Pader districts is customary land.

Aswa ranch was established in the 1960s for the breeding of beef animals, training farmers and livestock technicians, rangeland management, and the provision of semen for breed improvement in the local community among others. The ranch however became defunct owing to insecurity over the years.

Restocking of the ranch however commenced in 2014 with 1000 head of cattle by NAGRC &DB under MAAIF, years after the advent of peace in the region. The ranch was accommodating 1,600 cattle by July 2018 according to a 2018 report by the Parliamentary committee on Animal Industry and Fisheries.



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