Arthur Larok, the Executive director of Action-Aid (AA), is crying foul. A fortnight ago was another occasion where the Police went and searched AA offices, seizing documents and blocking some of their operations. They went further and instructed Bank of Uganda to order their bankers to block their accounts.
Larok mentioned two pertinent things: that AA was involved in “sensitizing” the people in their charge on the issue of land grabbing. Moreover, this is at the time of the Bamugemeriere Commission on Land. One would have thought that the conversation the land commission is generating is enough; apparently that is not so.
The second thing he attributed the action of Government against AA is the case that both his non-governmental organization (NGO) and the NRM are getting donations from some of the same donors. The argument here is that, since that is the case, there is nothing for the Government to investigate about any illegalities that may amount to “terrorist funding”. The insinuation here is that, either, there is terrorist funding in both cases, or, none at all.
The NRM Government is not having any of his argument on the source of his funding. The main reason is that he mentioned the manner some of its officers are grabbing land from the people. That seemingly is where Larok and AA have rubbed the NRM the wrong way.
Bamugemereire has uncovered some of the most unsettling issues of what has gone on for a long time in the country; and localized in many areas, thought as far from the prying eyes of the rest of Ugandans. Previous cases cited were near the start of the Commission’s work which appeared disturbing enough, but the latest revelations are anything but.
This column cited disturbing cases of some fraudsters who went with fake papers where they forced an old woman in Entebbe area to sign off huge chunks of her inherited land. They subsequently sold off to other “developers”. What emerged as disturbing in this case was that the fraudsters were using the Police officers to achieve their illegality.
This abuse of power has been multiplied in the cases where Bamugemereire has uncovered the illegalities in the Acholi region. It involves very high-ranking military figures who are using soldiers to post detachments on to people’s land, and throwing away the bona fide owners. This has been going on in Amuru and Nwoya areas, not where we were used to hear that soldiers and Policemen were being used to grab land-for sugar: these is “personal” land grabbing. Citing such cases is where Larok must have gone “wrong”.
Man y Ugandans are now used to being scared-off by this naked abuse of power because they have not had any other recourse for redress from the other arms of Government. Even the officers in those other arms of Government have, either colluded with the rogue elements, or have been compromised to oppress the people. Bamugemereire Commission has come up with some fresh air. That so far some of its rulings have been adhered-to is something extremely new in the Government affairs in the country.
Two things arise from this. One; that the safety of the Commission members, especially that of Catherine Bamugemereire, herself, is and remains to be assured, even after she completes her work. This is because she has stepped on to some of the most sensitive toes one can think of.
Arising out of this, is the second proposition: that after the report is handed over to the appointing authority, the matters will be adequately aired and acted upon as the dictates of the Commission will have recommended. This is not a fore-gone conclusion. Many commissions of inquiries have gone forth in this country without anything mentioned after their work. It may indicate that they are being used to let off the national steam; and then let the matters to be swept off under the carpet. It may be the reason Larok is being harassed as AA will not let such own findings be.
A disturbing recent case was the attempted land-grab, off Bwebajja, that attracted the intervention of another figure in the realms of power. Brig. Kasirye Gwanga also used his “power” position to “intimidate” a land grabber. Nothing has since been heard on who else was involved in this; or what the conclusions of the case was. These are some such of the problems we have faced before; and that is where the hope of the Bamugemereire Land Commission could be the last hope for this country, in this instance.