A President Museveni-initiated meeting to break the deadlock over the matter of land in Amuru District for a proposed sugar factory ended in yet another deadlock.
Sources told the Daily Monitor that whereas the President expected the meeting to endorse the implementation of the project at the earliest, in any case not later than three months, some of the elected leaders from Acholi, who attended the meeting thought otherwise.
“Though we welcome the development, it would be rational to consult and win over the bona fide owners of the land and their representatives,” said Mr Martin Ojara Mapinduzi on behalf of the Acholi sub-region district chairpersons during the Monday meeting at State House Entebbe.
Mr Ojara questioned why the President is insisting that the 40,000- hectare land be handed over to the investor. “If it is to grow sugarcane, let the locals do that and then sell it to the Madhvanis,” he said.
Mr Musa Khalil, who spoke on behalf of Acholi religious leaders, reportedly said the government should convince the locals that the project will improve their lives.
“There is need for consultations involving the religious, cultural and political leaders and the people so that there is no bloodshed,” said Mr Khalil.
The two were part of an Ogenga Latigo-led team of 100 political, religious and cultural leaders transported from northern Uganda to Jinja and Kalangala to “pick lessons” from the Kakira sugarcane and Kalangala oil palm factories ahead of the State House meeting.
President Museveni, however, said the people opposed to the factories are enemies of the areas they come from. A press statement issued by State House on Tuesday, quoted the President to have said, “…modernisation lies in factories…factories act as magnets to the people and this translates into development.”
The government wants to donate 40,000 hectares of land in Lakang village in Amuru District to the Madhvani Group to put up a sugarcane plant.
Government and the Madhavanis claim the land in Amuru is fertile but idle. However, many of the leaders from the region say there are other sinister reasons why the government and the Madhavanis are interested in that piece of real estate.
“Amuru District is in an oil belt. Those who want its land wrongly assume the local people do not know that. Well, they do. And they shall not be pushovers. Norbert Mao knows better,” Reagan Okumu, chairperson of the Acholi Parliamentary Group, said.
Another account, by the Minister for Political Mobilisation Richard Todwong, is that the Madhvanis want the land to use as collateral to secure a bank loan with which to develop the area. Mr Okumu said President Museveni’s actions render the Uganda Investment Authority useless.
He also drew attention to reports that Prof. Latigo had in the late 1990s and early 2000s conceived another suspicious plan to keep the locals, who had been displaced by the LRA insurgency in camps, a situation which could have led to unspecified power barons grabbing their ancestral land.
Mr Okumu said Prof. Latigo’s alleged scheme involved turning the IDP camps into satellite urban centres in which the people would be settled, thus ‘freeing up’ and making their land in the rural countryside available.
By press time, Prof. Ogenga could not be yesterday for comment.