Oil in Acholi must not spawn conflict
Posted Thursday, January 17 2013 at 09:51
More than a week ago the government became aware that Total S.A. had confirmed oil finds in Acholi sub-region’s Nwoya District, but this good news was not loudly proclaimed as is the practice.
This is the sort of secrecy which has spawned suspicions about the government’s intentions in Acholi.
There have been accusations hurled against the State over its activities in Amuru vis-à-vis the controversial planned Madhvani sugar complex. Right next door, in Nwoya District, which was carved out of Amuru two years ago, the government is under fire for planned evictions of locals.
As bloody squabbles over land in post-conflict Acholi threatened to spark fresh turmoil, Nwoya Woman MP Lily Adong in October 2012 lodged a petition in Parliament. Ms Adong was rightly concerned that 1,000 households around Got Apwoyo faced eviction from land that state agents claimed was in Lulim Game Reserve, Wii Anaka, Purongo sub-county.
About the same time, local leaders were aghast at an incursion of armed nomadic pastoralists in Nwoya. The nomads are said to have appeared in the area from the southwest. Their unwanted presence ignited unhappy memories of what happened in Bulisa, Bunyoro sub-region when commercially viable oil was announced in the Albertine Graben.
Observers have long suspected -- not without justification -- that the tensions in Amuru and Nwoya are not merely about the land but about what lies beneath the rich soils.
They point out that this land finds itself smack in the middle of what is known as Oil Exploration Area 1, stretching from the northern tip of Lake Albert, covering Murchison Falls National Park, sections of Buliisa, Nwoya and Nebbi districts. This belt is believed to be under the onslaught of land speculators – a number of them senior state functionaries.
Bulisa and other parts of Bunyoro experienced similar convulsions
But unlike Bunyoro, land in Acholi is largely communally owned.
These speculators must contend with this reality just as the government has to dispel suspicions that it was quietly fanning the pastoralist invasions and land wrangling between clans and neighbouring communities.
There must be a transparent process for determining envisaged compensation when oil production starts and people have to relocate – not the cutting of secret deals at the expense of the people.