Widows Struggle to Keep Land

September 30, 2009

By Wade Snowdon

AMURU, NORTHERN UGANDA-Like many in northern Uganda, Aber Alice[1], a widow from Pabbo was excited to begin the process of settling back into her original homestead after years of forced displacement.

 Before the war, Aber lived harmoniously beside her neighbors on her husbands ancestral land however upon return, Aber found that her neighbors who had been given land by her now deceased father in law had begun to extend their boundary into hers.

“We sat down to discuss about the boundaries. I had no intention to chase the family away but to say that we need to stick to our boundaries,” said Aber. Unfortunately the two sides failed to come to an agreement requiring Aber to look for outside help.

To receive assistance, Aber approached the cultural leaders to mediate the conflict. “I don’t want there to be problems between me and my neighbors so I asked the cultural leaders to come. After a solution was found, the elders stepped down on the long grass to show us the boundary.” 

To solidify the boundary, Aber planted banana trees however a short time later, the trees we removed by the son of the neighbor. When one of her sons asked why the plants were removed, the neighbor stated that, “he didn’t want the demarcation because they wanted to be free to farm anywhere,” according to Aber. Since then, no further action has been taken.

Aber is currently supporting 10 dependants and expressed her concern for their future. “My family depends on farming for survival and my sons run into problems when they try to access the land for planting. I fear is that my sons won’t be patient and that they will turn to using violence to solve the problem.”

While numerous formal and informal structures such as the Local Council Courts, Sub-County Courts, Area Land Committee, and Ker Kal Kwaro have all been mandated to resolve land conflicts, many in the region have expressed concerns that the cost of accessing justice is unattainable for those trying to begin their lives.

Corruption and inflated charges by such structures have further lowered the confidence level within the community increasing the likelihood of violence as people begin to take issues into their own hands.

Aber is one of many widows who have expressed their concerns over being denied their right to land during a community sensitization on land conflict held in Pabbo by the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative (ARLPI).

Women have been found to be particularly vulnerable to land conflict as many are being chased away from their former homes and are often refused the opportunity to be involved in the problem solving process. “As a woman, I have no power to confront others. Instead my sons go on my behalf,” said Aber.

ARLPI is currently conducting a Land Mitigation Project throughout the districts of Amuru and Pader which seeks to inform communities about land laws, and the procedures and structures put in place to protect their rights.

[1] Name has been changed for confidentiality purposes.