AMURU, NORTHERN UGANDA-After over two decades of war between the Government of Uganda and the Lords Resistance Army (LRA), those once forced to live in squalor camps for the internally displaced have begun to return home. While the two years of relative peace in the region has given many the confidence to begin rebuilding their lives, the process of return and resettlement has been marred with violent conflict over land posing a great threat to the new found peace in the region.
Nowhere in northern Uganda has land become such a contentious topic as in the district of Amuru. Land wrangles and boundary issues have plagued the district with violent conflict affecting all levels of the community. While many of the disputes can be attributed to the affects of decades of war such as loss of boundary markers, the vast amount of undeveloped land in Amuru has prompted the interest of outside investors which has further exacerbated the situation. The resulting violent conflicts have greatly contributed to the lowest return rate of Internally Displaced Persons (IDP’s) as compared to other war affected districts as people fear becoming involved in such embittered conflict.
Since 1997, the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative (ARLPI), a local interfaith peacebuilding and conflict transformation organization has been laboring throughout northern Uganda to find non-violent resolutions to various conflicts at the grassroot level. Recognizing the obstacle land disputes are having on the realization of sustainable peace in the region, the organization consisting of Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox and Muslim religious leaders has begun to focus on ways to ensure such conflicts can be mitigated before turning violent.
Ochan George, ARLPI’s program officer for Amuru district stated, “While the Juba Peace talks have made the conditions ripe for peace in Northern Uganda, a fresh war has begun over land conflicts robbing those who have been made vulnerable as a result of war such as women and children of their dreams to rebuild their lives.”
Through funding from Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative (ARLPI) has begun to implement a project which hopes to strengthen the procedure for mediating land conflicts in the region. To do so, ARLPI has begun research, community dialogues, and trainings of local leaders regarding land disputes with the overall goal of developing a uniform methodology of settling such conflicts.
Citing the importance of such an initiative, Openy Alfred, a local government official stated that the project would benefit communities by bringing a, “…permanent solution to recurrent cases of conflict caused by the court system as the courts sometimes rule without field visits, are manipulated by money, and often do not consider rulings made by lower institutions at the community level.”
While in the past institutions commissioned do deal with conflicts over land have competed and not coordinated their efforts in the past, ARLPI hopes to create a bridge between them which will have the desired effect of reducing the prevalence of violent land conflict leading to a more peaceful and harmonious community.
The project is currently underway in the sub-county of Lamogi, Amuru district, however ARLPI plans to expand the project to other districts in northern Uganda also experiencing the effects of land conflict.
Written by Wade Snowdon, IDR Officer, ARLPI
 According to a September 2008 report by the Inter Agency Standing Committee (IASC) in Uganda, 75% of individuals are remaining in IDP camps in Amuru while only 9% have returned to their villages of origin. This compared to Gulu district, reporting the next lowest rate of return at 42% of people remaining in camps while 46% have returned to villages of origin.