Monday August 22 2011

Government apologises over Amuru land

By James Eriku

The government has apologised to Amuru residents for irregularly trying to acquire land in the district for sugarcane growing.

Trade Minister Amelia Kyambadde, while on a fact-finding mission regarding the contentious 40,000 hectares of land requested by the Madhvani Group, said the government was sorry for trying to get the land without approval of residents.

“I’m here to apologise on behalf of the government for not engaging the locals in decision-making when it moved to acquire land for Madhvani’s sugar project. I’m now here to consult with you people to find out the best ways of developing the area,” she said.

Ms Kyambadde asked land owners to consider the future of their children that she said would be improved with the presence of the sugar project in their area, through increased revenue and provision of social services.

Good plan?
In 2008, MPs from Acholi sub-region sought a court injunction over the land, arguing that there was no need to give away people’s land when they were still in IDP camps.

However, Ms Kyambadde on Saturday said it was irregular for investors to be pushed to court for planning to invest in an area, adding that plans by the government and Madhvani were for the good of the people who are still impoverished after a two-decade insurgency.

Although she said locals should be involved in the sugarcane project, Ms Kyambadde said no compensation will be provided since the project would benefit locals. She said the community could only put their demands to Madhvani for inclusion in income and job-sharing.

But the chairperson of land owners, Mr Zackeous Oliel, said they need compensation. “Development must be done correctly and fairly. We land owners want to talk with the Madhvani directly instead of negotiating with the government,” he said.

Mr Gilbert Olanya, the Kilak County MP, who had accompanied the minister, said: “No institution should negotiate about people’s land other than the land owners themselves. We want development for our people but they should first agree directly on their benefits when they leave the land.”

Employment opportunities
Mr Livingstone Okello-Okello, a former member of the Acholi Parliamentary Group, recently said the government is using underhand methods to grab land in Amuru. His allegations follow a journey to the district by some ministers to inspect the land requested by the Madhvani Group.

Madhvani says their investment would employ 7,000 people and 5,000 sugarcane growers who would earn about Shs650,000 per month.