3 November 2017

Uganda: Use Mediation to Solve Land Rows, Locals Urged

Nwoya/Amuru — Land probe commissioners have advised residents of Acholi sub-region to settle for mediation as the best alternative for solving escalating land disputes in the region.

The commissioners said mediation, instead of the litigation process, was better since most of the land under dispute in the region is customarily owned.

"Mediation and reconciliation is the best way of solving this land matter. This land is customarily owned and you know yourselves. Why can't you talk and listen to one another? The one year you spend in court will not be helpful," Mr George Tinkamanyire Bagonza, a commissioner, said.

He made the call during a three-day field visit in the sub-region on Tuesday.

The commission of inquiry into land matters is currently probing Nwoya and Amuru districts.

Mr Bagonza said both parties must negotiate so that they get a win-win situation of ironing out their differences.

He also said the relationship between investors and locals need to be kept abreast for development to succeed in the region.

Mr Robert Ssebunya, another commissioner, encouraged residents to settle their differences so that land utilisation in the region is increased.

The commissioners also visited a farm covering 1,400 hectares in Purongo Sub-county, Nwoya District, owned by Dr Samuel Oola.

The land in question is being disputed by about 350 households who accuse Dr Oola of encroaching on more than 800 hectares of their land. During a meeting held at the farm, Ms Cecilia Lajobi, 58, a resident, said she settled on the disputed land in 1982 but ended up in internally displaced camps due to the LRA war.

However, upon returning, Ms Lajobi headed to her land but in 2013, Dr Oola started threatening residents to vacate, arguing that it belonged to him.

She added that when the locals resisted, Dr Oola dragged them to court but kept on processing a land title for the disputed piece of land.

"We couldn't afford to battle the matter in court, we had no money, and he [Dr Oola] kept on utilising the land. In 2016, he brought court brokers who demolished all our property on the disputed land," Ms Lajobi said.

However, Dr Oola denied the allegations, saying the complainants settled on land that had already been surveyed in 1978.

He accused residents of tarnishing his name with an intention of destroying his business.

The commissioners also visited Angica village in Lungulu Sub-county, Nwoya, where 80 households have been displaced from their 120 acres of land.

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