Land Conflict Mitigation Project: Vulnerable at Risk from Disputes Over IDP Camp Land

Vulnerable at Risk from Disputes Over IDP Camp Land

By Wade Snowdon                                                                                                                                November 4th, 2009

PATONGO, PADER- In 1985, the Karamajong cattle raiders invaded the area Florence Aber[1] lived causing her to flee to the neighboring district of Kitgum with her family. Although the Karamajong stayed for only a short period of time, the war between the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) and the government of Uganda which broke out a year later prevented Florence from being able to return to her land until 2002.

Upon her return, she quickly discovered that the land had been allocated by the government to be used as a camp for Internally Displaced Persons (IDP). When she approached the government, they said it was only temporary and that the land would be returned to her once the camp was decommissioned. With no other option, Florence built on an unoccupied small part of the land as she waited for the time when it would be fully hers again.

 When some of the displaced began to try and sell the portions they had been living on, Florence decided to lodge a complaint with the Local Council. Florence was about to find out how difficult it would be to reclaim her land.

 “When I first came back the government authorities had given me a letter stating that the land was mine but later when I went to the LCII, he told me that as a women, I have no claim to the land,” said Florence.   

 Sadly, her husband has now died leaving her to solely care for 12 dependants. “The land is important to me as my children need a place to stay and start their families,” said Florence.

 According to Florence, the land had belonged to her father and despite getting married, had lived on the land with her husband before fleeing the insecurity.  However, now a senior officer in Pader has claimed that he had purchased the land from the government. The case is currently before the Chief Magistrate Court.

 Disputes over land which has hosted IDP camps are on the rise as northern Uganda continues to experience relative calm allowing people to return to their original homesteads.

 Some of the hosts claim that compensation promised by the government has never been given, while many of the vulnerable still left in the camps report being charged rent and sometimes forcefully expelled.

According to a report by Adong Lilly, Amuru’s District Disaster Preparedness and Recovery Coordinator, on July 31st, 2009, huts in Pabbo IDP camp were abruptly demolished during the rehabilitation of the local health centre. While 107 households were given adequate notice of eviction as required by law, a mistake made during the survey of the property resulted in the displacement of occupants living in another 258 huts who were only given one week to find alternative housing. 47 extremely vulnerable individuals (EVI’s) found themselves at the mercy of their neighbors as a result.

The Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative (ARLPI) is currently implementing a Land Conflict Mitigation Project through funding from Catholic Relief Services (CRS) which seeks to empower community members to non-violently resolve land conflicts by teaching them about their rights to land and how to access the different structures which have been mandated by the government of Uganda to deal with such conflicts. It places special significance on empowering vulnerable individuals such as women, child headed households, elderly, and the youth who often feel powerless to deal with land conflict.

[1] Name has been changed to honor confidentiality.