Boundary disputes fuelling conflict in north

Land disputes in northern Uganda are threatening peace in the region as they have become a source of conflict among different communities. Daily Monitor’s Martin Odong & Cissy Makumbi highlight some of the key land conflicts in the area.

Thursday August 7 2014

A woman explains a point after she was recently

A woman explains a point after she was recently evicted from Laguri village, Ywaya parish Lamwo District. More than 13 families were left homeless when court bailiffs and a group of men armed with machetes stormed their village and ordered them to leave before razing down their huts and setting them ablaze. Photo by Dan Michael Komakechi. 

By Martin Odong & Cissy Makumbi

People in Acholi sub-region had hoped for a peaceful return home after two decades of war, however, this seems to be fading as northern Uganda gets embroiled in boundary disputes that has seen several properties destroyed, lives lost and developments halted.

Recently a severe dispute broke out over boundaries separating Atiak Sub-county in Amuru District and Palaro Sub-county in Gulu District.

Residents at border points of the two sub-counties are preventing each other from cultivating on the disputed land in the areas of Mede, Oroko, Gwei and Lagot-Oywec all in Palaro Sub-county.

The piece of land in question stretches to more than 10 kilometers and the dispute dates back to 2008 after Amuru was carved out of Gulu District in 2006.

The Palaro Sub-county chairperson, Mr David Ngole, says families residing on either sides of the districts borders have become hostile and are preventing each other from tilling the land.
“The administrative boundaries are well known, but at times they just have personal interests in the particular areas,” he says.

His counterpart of Atiak Sub-county in Amuru District, Mr John Bosco Ocan, says the border disputes cannot be solved by arrows and spears but the best way is to involve local leaders in the disputes.

Other areas where there are administrative border conflicts are Bobi Sub-county in Gulu District, Koch Goma Sub-county in Nwoya District and Odek Sub-county in Gulu and Oyam District at theborder.

The Gulu District chairperson and the boss of all chairpersons in the Acholi sub-region, Mr Martin Ojara Mapenduzi, says: “Fights will not take us far.

After the war we had hoped for peace as an avenue of helping each other, but to our dismay, locals have turned swords on one another.”

Changing the tone
However, Ms Catherine Lamwaka, the Gulu Resident District Commissioner, says leaders should change their tone, especially when they are commenting on land disputes.

“Instead of inciting people, leaders must educate them on co-existence,” she says. In Amuru District, there is a long standing boarder conflict border between residents in Adjumani and Apaa in Amuru District. Both residents claim ownership of Apaa.

However, the same land is claimed by Uganda Wildlife Authority as part of East Madi Wildlife Reserve.

In May, more than 100 residents of Adjumani District majority of them, cultivators and food producers were held hostage for over six hours by Amuru residents impounding 24 motorcycles along with a truck.

Ms Suzan Mildred Aber, a land officer in Amuru District, says: “Dialogue should remain paramount within communities as district borders only ease administration but not to dividing people.”

Similarly in Nwoya District, the Jonam and Acholi people have been conflicting over boundaries connecting the two areas in Latooro Parish and Purongo Sub-county. The Jonam accuse the leadership in Nwoya District of being behind eviction threats in the area.

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