Women with disabilities in Amuru Sub county Amuru district have pleaded with civil society organizations to help them safeguard their land. The women say that government structures in the district are too bureaucratic to save them from land grabbers in the community.
Esther Amono, one of the LRA insurgency Land mine survivors from Teddi Village Acwera Parish Amuru Sub County in Kilak County, Amuru district told a sensitization dialogue organized by Action Aid Uganda that that women with disability are losing their land to grabbers due to lack of Knowledge on the referral pathways.
“We were living harmoniously until I was hit by land mine in Rec ki Cyege. That is when trouble started between my neighbor and I after knowing that I am disabled and unable to pursue the matter further than the local council locally known as Rwot Kweri.”
Amono, mother of four children says she lost her land to her neighbor despite mediation at lower level with the Rwot Keri.
“When my leg was amputated after the land mine, I was not able to utilize the big chunk of land. I was with my husband alone. The neighbors started using the land and claimed before Rwot Kweri that the land belonged to them. We have struggled in vain to get back our land. Rwot Kweri has said my husband already signed for the land to belong to the neighbors,” she says.
Amono adds that the Rwot Kweri made her husband to sign a document without understanding the content that indicated his consent for the neighbor’s ownership of the land. She regrets that because of her disability, her neighbors are taking advantage of her condition to harass her husband and take away their land.
“Because I am disabled, someone is manipulating and using his ability and the money he has to take away what belongs to me. Now they are using our land. I cannot move far because my prosthesis got damaged in 2002 and I have since not been able to afford another one so that I can move to seek help from authorities in the district.”
According to Catherine Apiyo Oywa, Secretary natural resources Amuru district, there are no clear statistics about persons with disability to enable easy identification and location of those with issues that require special attention.
“We know that the district still has no statistics to identify these category of Persons with Disability. We know that this people have issues mainly because they have mobility problems but we request the NGOs like Action Aid help us because some of these issues are beyond the structures established to handle them. We shall try to handle what we can but the work is a lot that requires concerted efforts with stakeholders to have us serve these PWDs well.”
Stella Aciro, the Amuru Community Development Officer told our reporter that the district plans to have a disability council that will give a platform for the PWDs to air out their concerns in council to improve visibility of their issues.
“We are in the process of forming a disability council to have some of their issues discussed and handled as priorities because these people have needs that require our full attention.“
David Komakech, the project coordinator Action Aid Gulu cluster acknowledged that there is a challenge of PWDs sharing their experiences to get support through referrals and mediations to handle land rights and access issues in the community.
“Mobility is a challenge so the PWDs cannot move to come to gatherings were they can share experiences to get help. There is need for the local leaders to take an initiative of looking into the issues that affect PWDs seriously and ensure there is enough sensitization on referrals. If Rwot Kweri fails to amicably solve a land conflict, the area land committee, LC1 and the rest in that hierarchy so that people get help when they need it.”
Meanwhile Ocan John Bosco, Amuru Vice Chairperson who doubles as a councilor representing Atiak sub county assured PWDs gathered that the district will sit to have a special court sent to handle their land matters.
Amuru district has become a hotbed for land conflict and PWDs stand a risk of their rights being abused in terms of ownership and access since they are highly vulnerable.
Last Sunday, a bloody fight erupted between the Acholi and Madi people in Amuru that left four people dead.