10 February 2013

Uganda: Lawyer Advises On Amuru Land

A leading lawyer and human rights activist Nicholas Opiyo warned that unless people in Amuru district are brought on board, no development initiatives will take off successfully.

"If you impose investment on a particular people without their consent that investment will be in jeopardy; I think the involvement of the people in deciding how to invest in their area will be crucial in the long term sustainable development of the Amuru people," Opiyo said.

His comments follow strong opposition to plans by the Madhvani group to put up a sugar plantation and factory in the area.

Opiyo said, "Amuru is a post war conflict ridden area, before you even think about long term investment, you have got to address the aftermath of the conflict because people were displaced from their land. They have lived away from it ... you have to let them retain control of their property, then when you do that it is then important to consult them about the investment decisions on their land," Opiyo advised.

Jackson Odong, a researcher with Refugee Law project, said it was important for investors to dialogue with the people of Amuru.

"Many people have gone to Amuru and they have discussed [with the people] and they have been successful," Odong said.

He added that the focal point of the Amuru conflict was development but investors had opted to work through the government instead of meeting the locals individually.

"What we should know is that where there is conflict there is loss, you cannot till your land because if you dig the land [then] UWA comes to uproot crops ... Recently oil has been discovered in Amuru but trust me no machine can step in that land to extract oil if there is violence. We still have people in northern Uganda surviving on one meal a day," Odong added.

Gilbert Olanya, the MP for Kilak County in Amuru, recently admitted that the people there need investment but on their terms, which the government should be sensitive about.

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