Land Conflict Success Stories: ARLPI Visits Pabbo
Story and Photography by Sima Atri and Salvator Cusimano
June 1, 2011 (Pabbo) -- Last week, ARLPI staff and volunteers travelled to Pabbo Sub-County with representatives from Catholic Relief Services (CRS) to hear success stories related to the organization's land conflict mitigation and mediation efforts and to continue sensitizing and educating the surrounding communities about their land rights.
ARLPI's work here follows a troubling increase in the number of cases of land conflict across the Acholi subregion. As people returned home from IDP camps, customary land ownership rules made individual land ownership difficult to determine. Additionally, many youths who grew up in camps or lost their parents to the war found themselves unable to locate their ancestral lands. Conflict seemed inevitable as these returnees threatened to clash with the people who had come to occupy the vacated lands in question during the war. As these conflicts became violent, ARLPI recognized the need for peaceful mediation and in 2009 formed Land Conflict Mitigation Committee (LCMC) such as the one in Pabbo.
The day started with a community consultation at the Sub-county Headquarters, where ARLPI Programme Officer Lokwiya Francis facilitated a session that included updates by members of the LCMC, testimonials from concerned community members, and success stories by individuals who had been parties to land disputes that were eventually resolved thanks to the work of the LCMC.
The LCMC members reported that they continue to successfully implement the alternative mediation methods they were taught by ARLPI, with funding from CRS. Notably, a testimonial from a community member explained how he had wanted to go to court over a land conflict with his clan brother, but the LC2 and the LCMC helped them avoid lengthy court proceedings and instead reach a resolution though mediation that satisfied both parties.
The LC2 representative present at the proceedings credited such examples of success to ARLPI's non-violent conciliatory mediation methods. “We were trained by ARLPI and this training made work very easy," he explained. "We have sensitized the community and I’m happy to report that my people have responded well.”
In general, participants explained, the number of cases of land conflict in Pabbo has fallen, and when land conflicts do happen, people have now started to bring their conflicts to the committee instead of to the police or courts.
One member of the community thanked ARLPI for its work especially because it taught the community about women’s rights to land. She passionately urged ARLPI to continue sensitizing the community. The success of the Land Conflict Mitigation Committee so far, she exclaimed, should be seen not as a sign to stop working but as encouragement to work harder.
The legal advisor emphasized that clan laws could never contradict the constitution of Uganda, which guarantees equal rights to land for women. The question and answer period was lively and many people were able to ask questions about conflicts they may be experiencing.
The day ended with another thank you to ARLPI for its important work related to land conflict mediation and land rights sensitization. It was clear that the community appreciated the new-found knowledge and was eager to put it to good use.