Kalangala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Democratic Party-DP presidential candidate Norbert Mao has promised to establish a Stolen Assets Recovery Tribunal to address land conflicts in the country.
Mao who was campaigning in Kalangala explained that the tribunal would ensure that Kalangala residents will reclaim their land, which was allegedly grabbed by the government to secure land for the introduction of the oil palm project in Kalangala district.
Oil palm growing is part of the government’s Vegetable Oil Development Project that was launched in 1998 to develop new and traditional oilseed production in Eastern and Western Uganda. The project aimed at reducing poverty and improving the livelihoods of the local communities. The government thereby signed an agreement with Oil Palm Uganda Ltd-OPUL in 2002 to plant 10,000 hectares of oil palm in Kalangala district, particularly on Bugala Island.
According to the agreement, the government would acquire 10,000 hectares of land while OPUL, a joint venture of big palm oil and vegetable oil manufacturers- Wilmar and BIDCO (U) Ltd respectively would provide the seeds, plant and also make palm oil for the main exportation.
Of the 10,000 hectares, the government would allocate it to BIDCO while the rest would be left for out-growers and smallholder farmers.
However, between 2013 and 2015, over one hundred residents including farmers accused the government and OPUL of grabbing their land which they claim was forest land. Some of the residents claimed that their land was taken before they were compensated or the compensation was inadequate.
Mao said that once he is elected, he will set up a tribunal to look into land grabbing claims in the oil palm growing project and elsewhere in Uganda because land disputes have risen over the years.
Apart from land grabbing, some of the oil palm farmers have also for long decried low prices of oil palm fruits that have remained less than shillings 1,000 per kilogram.
Meanwhile, some they argue that voters in Kyamuswa County are unhappy that Mao campaigned in only Bujjumba County. They argue that Mao should have used the opportunity to popularise DP candidates at the local government level. DP has not fielded candidates for the
The voters add that Mao, who is the first presidential candidate to campaign in Kalangala, should have spent another day to travel to Kyamuswa county and understand the challenges faced by the islanders.