Acholi Chiefdom Petitions Land Commission Over Aswa Ranch

3344 Views Gulu, Uganda

In short
According to Olaa, the cultural institution is in possession of several questionable land titles issued by Uganda Land Commission to Uganda Livestock Industry.

The Acholi Cultural institution alias Ker Kwaro Acholi has petitioned the Justice Catherine Bamugemereire Land Commission to probe the ownership and economic activities in Aswa Ranch. Ambrose Olaa, the Prime Minister of Acholi Cultural institution presented the complaint to the Commission in Gulu district this morning on behalf of the Chiefdom. Olaa told the Commission led by Justice Catherine Bamugemereire that the ranch is now shrouded with several controversies.

 
According to Olaa, the ranch was established by Uganda Development Corporation under a public private partnership to among other things to improve the breed of Zebu cattle owned by the Acholi people. He says the ranch was operated by Uganda Livestock Industry, a subsidiary of the defunct Uganda Development Corporation (UDC). Olaa outlined seven major issues they want the Commission to investigate. They include ownership of the ranch, widespread corruption in the ranch and extension of the boundary of the ranch to cover an estimated 1,500 acres (42,000 hectares) into Pader, Kitgum and Lamwo.

 
Olaa said the ranch has been infiltrated by herdsmen tightly guarded by security. He said the herdsmen engage in illegal logging, intimidation of residents and encroachment into sacred cultural sites such as the coronation sites of the Payira Clan chiefs. "Other issues include uncontrolled grazing of livestock, destruction of people's property and desecration of cultural sites. The cultural institution and Forum of Acholi district leaders have been blocked severally from accessing and investigating activities in the ranch," Olaa said.

 
According to Olaa, the cultural institution is in possession of several questionable land titles issued by Uganda Land Commission to Uganda Livestock Industry. "The ranch was established in 1967 with a lease of 49 years which expired in 2016. In our opinion, the deal should have been re-negotiated with the people of Payira who offered the land. But we were surprised to learn that another title was issued by Uganda Land Commission to Uganda Livestock Industry in 2015. And we would like to know under, which agreement the title was issued?" he asserted.
 
 
The Commission heard that some highly placed people in government are involved in the illegal activities taking place in the ranch. Olaa however, declined to name the implicated officials in public, saying he will furnish the Commission in camera. Fred Ruhindi, one of the Commissioners asked Olaa to engage the executive arm off government and Office of the Prime Minister to find solutions to some of the complaints listed for development, peace and harmony to be restored with neighboring communities.

 
Robert Ssebunnya, another Commissioner, said the Cultural institution has a key role to address some of the issues raised. "The chiefdom might play critical roles in bringing order and harmony. So, I propose that the kingdom intensify dialogue with the people concerned especially with your own children," he said. Olaa welcomed the proposal to mediate the dispute, saying the Commission is the only hope of the people to regain ownership their property rights.

 
"The Commission has the privilege and the mechanisms to subdue those engaging in illegal activities in the ranch. This is the basis of us coming to the Commission. We are confident that you will help our people and streamline land management, land administration system to eliminate multiple actors some of whom just clog and confuse the process" he concluded.
 
Developments in Aswa Ranch started with government stationing about 1000 exotic heads of cattle in the ranch following the return of peace in the region. Acholi chiefdom says the number has since grown beyond 5,000 following the influx of alien herdsmen who transport their livestock during the night. In January this year, Daily Monitor Newspaper quoted Clement Nuwamanya, the ranch manager saying the ranch is owned by National Animal Resources Centre and Data Bank (NARCDB). The Commission has deferred the investigation for another time. 

 

About the author

Peter Labeja
Peter Labeja has been a practicing journalist for the last 13 years during which he has covered part of the brutal conflict which bedeviled Northern Uganda as well as the painful transition to Peace thereafter. Emerging post conflict issues such as land rights of under privileged widows and orphans, challenges of access to social services in the immediate aftermath of Lord’s Resistance Army conflict in Northern Uganda.

Labeja is now the Northern Uganda Bureau chief in Acholi Sub Region since 2014 - Gulu, Amuru, Nwoya and Omoro districts as well as South Sudan falls within his areas of jurisdiction. He previously worked with The Vision Group for four years.

Labeja’s major career interests are in Climate Change; Agriculture and Environment - natural resources such as Water, Oil and Gas; Transitional Justice; Human Rights, Democracy and Governance as well as South Sudan’s humanitarian crisis. In 2013, Labeja was awarded a prestigious Pan African Journalism Award for excellence in journalism at United Nation’s UNEP headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya for Climate Change and Health Reporting.