Land Insecurity Reveals Complexity of Suffering in Northern Uganda
Land insecurity in northern Uganda, caused by displacement and an inadequate legal framework and protection of land rights, has been an obstacle to peace efforts for over a decade. Though those displaced from their land suffer the worst insecurity, landowners hosting IDP camps have also endured property damage and inadequate legal protection. Though the needs of IDPs weigh more heavily than standard property rights, clearly guaranteeing certain property rights is essential for trust-building between the central government and northern Ugandans. Judy Adoko, a land rights activist in Uganda working for a Uganda-CAN partner organization, the Land and Equity Movement in Uganda, reports from the ground about the challenges of balancing human need and land rights.
Bosco's family (name changed) has hosted IDPs on their land since 1986, and are currently under threat of losing their family land. Bosco, a young man, inherited the land through his deceased father, Patrick. Recently, Bosco came to Land and Equity Movement in Uganda (LEMU) to seek legal advice because some of the IDPs have started building permanent houses on his land and have cut all the vegetation down. Some IDPs now claim that since they have lived on the land for a long time, the land belongs to them and they are protected by the central government.
Bosco has tried to inform people of his rights to land and to stop them from building permanent houses on his land but the people are very aggressive. Bosco believes that the suffering has made people very aggressive. Some of the local authorities support the IDPs. Bosco has other uncles who have supported him to claim rights over his father's land.
On 3rd January 2005, he and his clan members and neighbours put mark stones (not survey stones) all around their land and drew a map showing the boundaries. To support Bosco, LEMU also wrote a legal brief to the authorities and IDPs in Katakwi district to advise them that in the absence of a legal compulsory acquisition of land by the government followed by prompt, fair and adequate compensation of the land to Bosco's family, the land still belongs to Bosco and his family.
His actions do not necessarily mean he wants the IDPs to leave and return to unsafe homes, but that he is merely trying to protect his land rights and ensure displacement is not permanent. However, legal red-tape has prevented the Bosco dilemma, common throughout northern Uganda, from getting the attention it deserves.
Look for more analysis of land insecurity in northern Uganda on the Uganda-CAN website within the coming weeks.