13 September 2017

Uganda: Amuru Land - Locals Accuse Govt of Forceful Survey

Amuru — A month after the survey of 10,000 hectares of land in Kololo Village, Amuru District to pave way for establishment of a sugar factory and sugar plantation for Madhvani Group ended, a section of land owners are now crying foul that they were forced by the government to accept the exercise.

Last month, Lands minister Betty Amongi and a team of land surveyors guarded by police and solider camped in Amuru District to kick start survey of the disputed land for the Amuru sugar works Ltd project that had stalled for more than a decade.

The minister and her team were, however, greeted by protest from political leaders, locals and nude demonstration from elderly women who opposed the exercise, saying it is a ploy by government to grab their land.

Although the exercise was postponed after the protest, it resumed days later with the minister defending the survey, saying it would only be carried out with the mutual consent of land owners, adding that 101 people had reportedly earlier consented.

Madhvani Group, the leading Ugandan sugar producer under the Kakira Sugar brand, has since pulled out of the project citing resistance from locals and leaders.

But an investigation carried out by Daily Monitor nearly a month after the survey reveals that some of the locals are unhappy claiming they were forced to hand over their land for survey.

Ms Doreen Adong, a widow and resident of Akado Parish in Kololo village, is among some of the locals claiming their land was surveyed forcefully.

Ms Adong, who was among the elderly women who staged nude demonstration, owns 100 hectares of land.

She said on the fateful day of the survey, 15 men armed and others in plain clothes emerged from a nearby bush and told them they had finished surveying her land.

"I had never accepted that my land should be surveyed, but on that day, I was surprised by people who told me my land was surveyed," Ms Adong said.

She said her particulars were not registered, adding that there were no neighbours and local leaders to witness the exercise.

Mr Michael Ochora, who shares a similar plight, said he surrendered his 155.1 hectares of land to be surveyed after people who claimed to be land owners, came to his home with the surveyors and told him that their land had been surveyed and his land was surrounded.

"The surveyors had policemen and army, they also came along with some people pretending to own land in the area to witness the exercise. I got worried that I may get beaten if I resisted," Mr Ochora said.

He added that he is unsure if they will be compensated.

"They (surveyors), after mapping out my land, told me to fill my particulars and then sign on a white paper. They didn't tell me what would follow and when to expect information pertaining their exercise but only left me with a map of my area surveyed," he said.

Ms Grace Aber, a resident of Payot Parish, said she was surprised to find out that her land measuring about 80 hectares had been surveyed.

Mr Gilbert Olanya, the Kilak South MP, said in an interview at the weekend that the government should audit information of those whose land was surveyed for clarity.

He added that the exercise is null and void since excessive force allegedly was used and people were intimidated.

"Majority of the people whose lands were surveyed didn't accept willingly, the government has to carefully audited the names of the people surveyors purportedly surveyed to be sure that they are the bona fide land owners," Mr Olanya said.

Efforts to get comments from the minister Amongi were futile as she didn't answer our repeated calls on her known phone number.

But Mr Denis Obo, the Lands ministry spokesperson refuted the allegations of forceful survey of the land in question.

He said those disgruntled should register their complaints with the Resident District Commissioner since the exercise provides for grievance handling mechanism.

Mr Obo said surveyors are still computing the information of the survey before information is given back to those whose lands have been surveyed.

"There are many processes involved after the survey of land. We need to compare and compute details of the survey before they are public given out," Mr Obo said.


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