Apac residents call for pro-poor land law

APAC – Residents of Apac district in Northern Uganda have blamed the increase in land disputes in the district on the weak law governing land in the country.

Land in Uganda is governed under the Land Amendment Act 2010 which has been blamed for not being able to effectively address land issues in the country.

The Apac residents raised their concerns during a community dialogue organised by the Ministry of Land, Housing, and Urban Development as part of the activities to mark the Annual Land Awareness Week being held in Lira City and the rest of the districts in Lango Sub-region.

Patrick Enyunyi, a resident of Ibule Sub-county in Apac district observed that the process of registering customary land is very expensive.

“I wanted to register but I realised it needs Shs 2.5 million and the process takes more than two years, getting customary land title does not favour the poor, it is for the reach. In the coming review of the land law, government should make it easier for us to afford,” Enyunyi said.

Nancy Cuwi, a resident of Tetegu village Tetegu parish in Okokoro Sub-county Apac district, pointed out that she won a court case after 13 years the but has not gotten justice.

“Instead, the land grabbers now want to kill me over land, I started from LC1, 2, and three courts. I won at all these levels, but the land grabbers have refused to vacate my land. I went to Apac Grade One Magistrate Court, and the judgment was in my favor, I went to Lira High Court, and again I won the case. It is now two years and the encroachers are still on my land,” she said.

She also revealed that there are six households who are supposed to be evicted from her land, but they have continued to occupy it and threaten her life.

Felix Ogwal, also a resident of Akokoro, also attested that he had a land conflict that went up to court, judgement was on his side but still the person was encroaching on his land.

“I have made payments, I have the receipt, but still the land grabber persists on encroaching on my land.  We need government to review the law governing land and must favour the poor,” Ogwal said.

Section 32A [1] of the Land Act says ” A lawful or bona fide occupant shall not be evicted from registered land except upon an order of eviction issued by a court and only for nonpayment of the annual nominal ground rent.”

Abdallah Hassan Byantalo, an official of the the Lands ministry, advised the residents to first explore other alternatives for resolving land conflict before going to courts of law, adding that up to 80 percent of the land in Lango Sub-region is still customary and proving ownership is difficult in courts of law.

Ronald Bagaga, the policy and Research officer at Eastern and Southern Africa Small Scale Farmers’ Forum [ESAFF], remarked that, “The purpose of this is to get views of the small-scale farmers, women, and persons with disabilities who are most affected by the land issues so that we have pro people land laws.”

He added that the land rights centre was created to help people access relevant information on management.

The 7th Land Awareness Week 2023 is being held from August 28 to September 2, under the theme, “Promoting Land Rights and Inclusion for Enhanced production and Sustainable Development”. The activities are being held in the districts Lango Sub-region districts of Lira, Apac, Dokolo, Amolatar, Kwania, Kole and Alebtong.

The Land Awareness Week was first held in 2017 in Acholi Sub-region. in 2018 it was held in Teso Sub-region. It was taken to Karamoja Sub-region in 2019 while in 2020, it was in west Nile region. In 2021, it was organised in Central Uganda, and Kigezi Sub-region.

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