Kampala — The continued accusations of land grabbing against the government by members of Parliament from Acholi is an opposition ploy to make political capital, three government ministers said yesterday.
Mr Omara Atubo (Lands), Mr Hillary Onek (Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries) and Mr Musa Ecweru (state for disaster preparedness) said the MPs wanted the region to remain under insurgency and in poverty so that they make scores against the government.
The ministers who were addressing a press conference at the Uganda Media Centre following a Monday meeting with religious, cultural and opinion leaders in Gulu said sabotaging development was bad opposition politics, which did not augur well for the region and the country at large. The MPs boycotted the said meeting.
The ministers said the MPs' actions at times amounted to inciting violence, for which the MPs would have been charged but government would address the issue politically by sensitising the people in the region about land issues.
"Some of the MPs' utterances amount to inciting violence but we don't want to make some politicians heroes. We decided as government to approach it politically to expose the lies of these people," Atubo said. "The political leaders here (Acholi) see themselves as an opposition. The noise over land here is loudest. Is it a coincidence."
The minister gave a copy of resolutions taken at the Monday meeting in which participants reportedly distanced themselves from the MPs.
The MPs notably Okello Okello (UPC - Chwa County), Okumu Reagan (Aswa) and Odonga Otto (Aruu) have been at the forefront of making accusations of land grabbing maneuvers by the government. They have also accused the government of confining the people in the region in camps and perpetuating war so that the government grabs the abandoned land. The MPs threatened war over the issue.
The people in Acholi have spent most of the last 20 years in camps due to the Lord's Resistance Army insurgency. However, with a semblance of peace due to the ongoing peace talks in Juba, Mr Ecweru said about 400,000 had returned to their homes and were beginning to till their land.
Mr Onek said over 1,000 hectares had now been opened up by the returning displaced people. Mr Owiny Dollo gave a historical background and the present legal framework of land ownership in Uganda. He said the 1995 Constitution gave ownership of land to the people and therefore the government could no longer take over people's land at will and without their consent.