NWOYA. A section of leaders in Acholi Sub-region have rejected a government move to have their land registered in order to be issued with Certificates of Customary Land Ownership (CCO), saying the programme is being implemented under unclear intensions and without consultation.
Government is implementing the second phase of certification of all customary land ownership in the area where all residents on communal land are being registered.
Land in this sub-region is communally owned and registered under the customary land tenure system.
In the October 30, 2017 letter, Lands ministry wrote to all the chief administrative officers (CAOs) across Acholi Sub-region instructing them to mobilise communities in their districts for the registration of communal land associations.
According to the Ministry, it has partnered with Trocaire, a civil society organisation to register the 46 clans in the sub-region own communal land in their respective areas.
Acholi leaders under their umbrella body, Joint Acholi Sub-region Leaders Forum have however criticised government officials over what they termed as “illegal land certification”.
During the implementation of the second phase, the political wing in the sub-region refused to give land registration the green light, accusing Ministry officials of having sinister plans of dragging locals into land conflicts by conducting certification without their knowledge and that of the land owners.
They have directed the Ministry of Lands to officially write to them about the registration as they threatened to mobilise their people to respond to the government cause.
According to the Kitgum District chairman, Mr Jackson Omona, who is also coordinator of Acholi districts chairpersons, government has not consulted any of them.
“They got into our villages without communicating to us or even tipping us. This has caused animosity and suspicion in the communities. We don’t wish at any point to be part of this manipulation and betrayal to our people,” he say.
Mr Omona says the ministry is wasting time and money in the process and cannot succeed with the registration unless the exercise is owned by leaders of the eight districts and their communities.
In 2016, the state Minister for Lands, Ms Persis Namuganza, launched the CCO programme in Nwoya District and land was piloted by a local organisation, ZOA under Land Security and Economic Development project in Acholi sub-region.
Responding to the leaders’ remarks, Mr Robert Opio, the Commissioner of Land Registration warns Acholi leaders against messing up the exercise.
“It was a process and we did not just walk in here. We wrote to CAOs and copied their chairpersons. We don’t want to influence the way people in this region distribute land. If we are dividing ourselves for whatever reasons, this should not be over forms or letters written,” he notes.
Mr Opio says they are taking keen interest in the process since they are supposed to champion the implementation of land laws, policies and programmes.
“Allegations were made but these were not in good faith since we are part of government and we are not working for ourselves. These Acholi leaders speak as if there is no government or governance system existing in their areas, this should stop,” he says.
Freedom to choose
Mr Livingstone Okello Okello, the former Chairperson Acholi Parliamentary Group, says land owners should be left at liberty to choose how they want their land administered.
Mr John Obongo, a resident of Kal Okura Village in Nwoya District, who recently certified his 194 hectares of land under customary ownership testifies that the certification has saved him from wrangles.
“I had a number of disputes on my land but now that it has been documented, I am very happy about it. It has all our names, including that of my brothers and wives and the wrangles are no more,” he says.
Amuru District chairman Michael Lakony says it was a sinister move for the ministry to ignore them in the process.
“As leaders, we have a lot of questions in regard to the forms, design and its formalities. We don’t trust the ministry in the way they do their things. Without notifying us, they are doing it in bad spirit,” Mr Lakony says.
He adds: “When they continue without engaging them, they are going to mobilise the local people to resist the move,” he says.