WE WANT OUR LAND, NOT A FACTORY
In February 2015, Karamoja Development Forum (KDF) published a report detailing proceedings of two land grabs in the Karamoja region. The report titled Take Anything, Leave Our Land detailed two land acquisition cases which offer a glimpse into Karamoja’s complicated development problem and the growing storm over its land resources.
In Nakuyon village also known as Tonyoutu village due to its unstable location, the community was evicted by Uganda Prisons Service, a government agency, through the Uganda Prisons Farm of Namalu in an attempt to provide food for the World Food Programme so that it can feed primary schools. The land eviction orchestrated by the farm caused pain, disease, loss of livelihoods and loss of lives. Up to date this community is yet to seek redress.
In Kautakou of Napak district, the community is exposed to the hand of Uganda`s keen interest to industrialize. Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) acquired land from one Peter Amodoi to establish a Karamoja Industrial and Business Park (KrIBP). The land in question is said to have been acquired through a fraudulent process, which the community is challenging in the courts of law. The legal suit is a choice imposed upon the community after all efforts to engage and discuss the land acquisition were fruitless.
Six months after the publication of the KDF land Report, UIA ignores a court process in place, sends a consultant charged with the duty to plan the KrIBP project. The consultant, Savimaxx Limited, Kampala based, was charged to come and develop a physical plan as well as carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the project.
Savimaxx Limited through consultation discovers that the land in question has unresolved issues. The community, the owners of the land, rejected any process aimed at physical planning for the project. They have not given their land out for any development.
Savimaxx Limited therefore organized a community meeting on 12th August 2015 in Kautakou after prior consultations with Napak district and the office of the Resident District Commissioner. The meeting would not yield any fruit for physical planning to proceed.
The consultant was interested in asking two questions to the community. Whether the community wanted an industrial and business park or it’s the wrong land acquisition process that is hindering the development. In all attempts, the community reiterated that they are not opposed to development.
The community indicated a proper process which resulted to a land offer for a secondary school and health center in their community. This, they say, should have been the way to go; consult the rightful owners of the land and agree on which piece to offer for development.
The situation leaves UIA and the Kautakou community in a dilemma on whether to forcefully kick start the project or respect the rightful owners of the land and clear unresolved issues.
Even as the court case is on, UIA is committed to exploring opportunities of community engagement. This, the community indicates were exhausted from the very beginning, from which UIA paid a deaf ear.
For now, the community wants the land title cancelled by the ministry of lands, land returned to the community and the process takes a normal procedure, or “our ancestors will resurrect from that land.”