Land Conflict Mitigation Project: Mediation Helps to Overcome Challenges Faced in Pursuing Legal Means

Mediation Helps to Overcome Challenges Faced in Pursuing Legal Means

 BY WADE SNOWDON

October 26th, 2009

PURANGA, PADER-Oceng Patrick[1], had big dreams for his family. In 1975 he acquired a piece of land in the trading centre in Puranga with aspirations of erecting buildings to be rented as a means of supporting his family. However, the war between the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) and the Government of Uganda forced him to put his dreams on hold when he was forced to move to a camp for the internally displaced.

 Despite years of struggling to make a meager survival in the camp, Oceng never lost hope and in 2006, he was finally able to return to his land.

 Originally the disputed land was one full plot, however after the building of a road by the government, the land was split into two with the road acting as a divide. Despite this setback, Oceng moved forward and began to mobilize funds to start construction.

 His plans came to an abrupt stop after what he describes as a, “powerful man in the community” complained that one of part of the land belongs to him.

  Initially all the neighbors supported Oceng’s claim to the land causing the complainant to take the case to the Local Council II (LCII) court.

 However, shortly after the case went to court, some of Oceng’s previous supporters started to change sides. “Since this man is wealthy, my supporters changed sides which makes me think they were bribed. This combined with the fact that the complainant was related to individuals at the LCII courts led to the loss of my case,” said Oceng. 

 He then decided to appeal to the Sub-County Court (SCC) where the case took over one year for a judgment to be given. In the end the SCC ruled in favor of the other individual giving the reasoning that the man had acquired a land title. “This became a great concern for me as how could someone obtain a land title to land so quickly when he had been there for years? ” said Oceng.

 Out of anger, he decided to take the case to the High Court. However upon doing so, he discovered that the court was significantly backlogged with cases. “There were almost 1000 pending cases over land. Since my conflict has already taken 3 years, I realized that I would have to wait for many more years before this problem is solved.” 

 It was then when Oceng found out that the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative (ARLPI) with funding from Catholic Relief Services (CRS) had formed a Land Conflict Mitigation Committee (LCMC) to more efficiently resolve land conflict. After attending the community sensitization organized by ARLPI in Puronga, he decided that his best option was to task the LCMC to help him to organize a mediation.

 He felt that by using the LCMC for mediation it would help to, “prevent the other individual from being able to use bribes to win the case.” By having the different structures represented at the mediation, it would help them to be accountable to each other and to ensure that the case is handled properly.

 Despite the disagreement, Oceng is also concerned about the relationship with the individual he is in conflict with and stated that he now knows that mediation is the best option to help foster reconciliation. “I want our relationship to be restored so at least there can be harmony among us. If I loose the right to the land, we both will have to live side by side with only a road to separate us. I now think mediation is the only way this can happen.” 

 


[1] Not real name or location for purposes of honoring confidentiality.

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