Despite opposition from Amuru locals, Lands minister Betty Amongi has launched the contested survey of Amuru land that is earmarked for the Madhvani group of companies to eventually set up a sugar factory.
The exercise, which began on Monday at 5:30pm with verification of landowners who consented for their land to be surveyed, was conducted under heavy military deployment.
Curiously, the survey was launched with a team of surveyors but without the presence of district leaders to witness the exercise.
Local leaders and area members of parliament, including Gilbert Olanya (Kilak North) and Anthony Akol (Kilak South) in Amuru district, were blocked on their way to Kololo Sub-county, where the land is located.
Even journalists were initially stopped from covering the exercise. However, Minister Amongi later withdrew her decision and allowed a few journalists, majorly from mainstream media, to cover the exercise.
Police laid three roadblocks on the 120-kilometer stretch of road from Gulu town to Kololo where the minister travelled to meet the about 101 landowners who have allegedly consented for their land to be surveyed.
The crowd that showed up to be verified was less than half the expected number. According to Amongi, the heavy deployment that preceded the exercise was for the protection of the surveyors who may be attacked by the community.
The controversial Amuru Land has a community of more than 15,000 people whose livelihoods have been affected and created suspicion between those who consented for their land to be surveyed and those who rejected the move.
"I want to assure the communities that have consented to their land being surveyed that government shall protect you.
Entertainment before cameras is not my method of work and not the method of work of government." Amongi told journalists on Friday.
Madhvani group of companies wants to expand to northern Uganda's 10,000 hectares piece of land in Kololo and Lakang in Amuru district, apparently to take advantage of the vast and fertile land in the area.
However, on Thursday last week the community protested vehemently, with a group of women stripping naked before the minister and other technocrats.
The minister has camped in northern Uganda since Tuesday last week, holding a series of meetings with civil, cultural, religious, security and political leaders among others.
Kilak South MP Anthony Akol told The Observer that the use of force while securing the land will instead alienate the people, which could spell doom for the project.
"There is no way you can bring development by force. If you try to forcefully survey the land, the people will not accept to work in the sugar factory or even the cane plantations," he said, adding:
"And when you bring workers from out, we will not sell food to them.
And we will wait until your sugarcane is ready for harvest; we can even burn it down. So what will you benefit as the government, as Madhvani or the investor?"