Kilak South Member of Parliament (MP) Gilbert Olanya asked the people of Amuru district not to relax in their efforts to demand for land titles as a way to avoid losing it to dubious investors and land grabbers that are targeting it because it is not registered. A similar campaign baptized as Kyapa Mu Ngalo, was launched by the Buganda kingdom administration, asking Bibanja owners to obtain certificates but on a leasehold tenure.
Olanya made the call in the wake of multiple land conflicts that have rocked the district pitting families, clans versus state agencies and investors.
Olanya was addressing the media in Gulu town as part of the Land Awareness Week in Amuru organized by Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), the Ministry of Lands with the view to engaging the community to know their land rights.
The sensitization exercise was organized by the Participatory Ecological Land Use Management – PELUM in collaboration with the Ministry of Lands and the district local administration and targeted 12 parishes of Atoro, Bana, Layima, Lajalula, Pamuca, Lakang, Kololo, Ngiy, Labongogali, Layamu, and Ayila.
The Land Awareness Week on the theme: “Together we protect our land,” is meant to raise the public’s awareness about their land rights across the region. The Ministry is using meetings starting from the parishes, as well as music exhibition, media engagements, radio talk shows and mobile legal clinics to reach out to the people.
Olanya says that Amuru has endless land conflicts because of the vast unregistered land that the district possesses.
“If you go to the Ministry of Lands, on the map of Amuru district, it shows that the land is vacant. That is why anybody will go to the Ministry of Lands and identify the area and then come on the ground to start processing the land title minus the community knowing how they got their document.” He cited Omera parish in Amuru Sub County, as showing that it is vacant land yet the community has settled in the communally owned land for hundreds of years.
Olanya says the biggest problem the community faces is ignorance of how to obtain titles for their land.
“That is why we are mobilizing people in Amur to start documenting there land. The world is modernizing so rapidly and if you insist on customary ownership, you will be left out automatically without your land,” Olanya added.
A team of ten lawyers have been hired to offer their services for free to sensitize the community and also tell them the rightful procedures of acquiring the land.
But according to Moses Onen, the programme coordinator for PELUM and one of those who conducting the sensitization activities says that more than 1000 applications have been made to the district land committee by people from Amuru region.
Onen however reveals that communities have been discouraged by a 2012 Court order that ruled that over 40,000 hectares of land being claimed by over 1,500 households in Amuru is not communal land but rather public land.%