Moroto, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Women in Moroto gathered courage and strength to report and expose land fraud cases in the district on Tuesday as the Justice Catherine Bamugemereire Commission started probing land matters there.
While in Karamoja women rarely speak at public gatherings, a good number grabbed the opportunity presented by the Commission at the community Baraza in Moroto town to expose land grabbing cases. They accused individuals, businessmen and institutions including government entities of grabbing their land.
Maratina Lopido, a widow from Kanakomol village in Nadunget Sub County was the first to take to the floor. She took on Max Lokabenyan, the Nadunget Sub County LC III chairperson and businessman, who she accused of grabbing and denying her access to her ancestral land measuring about 300 acres.
Lokabenyan tried to defend himself against the accusations leveled on him by the widow, but was booed by the audience, which applauded Lopido as she unleashed her pain before the Commission. No sooner had Lopido completed registering her complaint than another woman, Faith Nakut took to the podium.
She accused Peter Amodoi of allegedly duping elders into selling more than 168 hectares of community land to Uganda Investment Authority-UIA. Although the case is in court, Nakut claims that the Amodoi exploited the ignorance of the community to access their land title.
As soon as Nakut resumed her seat, her immediate neighbor, Joyce Inyangan rose up with accusations of land grabbing against the UPDF 3rd Division leadership in Moroto. The widow, now wandering on the streets, says the army grabbed her only acre of land, forcing her to rent.
She said that she couldn’t pursue the case since she didn’t have any money for litigation. Iyangan’s complaint brought to light the plight of 78 other residents from Rupa Sub County whose land has allegedly been grabbed by the army in Moroto.
Mark Aol Mussoka, one of the affected residents, said they had made several efforts to reclaim their land in vain.
Sarah Akello, a miner at Kosiroi Mining Site in Tapac Sub county summarized the day by slamming Tororo Cement Ltd for allegedly cordoning off 49.7 square kilometers of land without consultation or paying compensation to the land owners.
Akello explained that some investors connive with line ministry officials to locate and issue licenses without the knowledge of the community.
Stella Atyang, the Moroto Woman MP also accused Moroto District Local Government for allegedly trying to grab land from the community of Nadunget Sub County for the establishment of a cement factory.
According to the district council, the land in question was gazzetted as public land under the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries but the MP argues that the said land belongs to the community.
Justice Catherine Bamugemereire observed that there are issues of investors, elite capture and dishonesty that she notes will be investigated in Moroto.
The commission is continuing with field visits today and tomorrow before writing its findings.