More and more people in Acholi sub-region in Northern Uganda are turning towards traditional institutions for resolution of land conflicts. Acholi sub-region bore the brunt of years of civil war between 1986 and 1996. The people in the region are just beginning to return to their homes after many years of living in Internally Displaced Peoples camps. Land disputes are still commonplace in the region.
Its upon this realization that USAID through the SAFE program is carrying a number of interventions to mitigate the dangers that could arise from the land wrangles. One such initiative that USAID is supporting is empowering Acholi cultural or traditional institutions to be able to effectively resolve emerging land conflicts.
Thus with USAID support, the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative (ARLPI) has identified and trained different categories of community members such as Local council LC I, II, Rwot kweri/Okoro, religious leaders, elders among others on Alternative Dispute Resolution approaches like mediating land-related conflicts between parties at both village and parish level ARLPI also conducted several community sensitization meetings, debates to educate communities on boundary tree planting, land tenure security and mediation among others.
As result of a sensitisation carried out by ALPI in Parwaca parish, Pabwono village, Atiak sub county Amuru district, more people are now filing their complaints with traditional institutions which are closer to the people, more accessible and less costly. It is hoped that the USAID intervention will ultimately empower the people of Acholi to be able to resolve the numerous land wrangles; and the intervention is already producing results.
60 year old Aluku Esther was able to register her case (land dispute with her neighbour Okello Massimo) with ARLPI seeking the organisation’s intervention and assistance in resolving the problem once and for all.
The conflict over the land boundary between the two families of Okello Massimo and 60 year old mother of five Mego Aluku Esther started way back in 2008. Okello claimed that the land in question had already been demarcated by the Rwot kweri and elders in 2008 but Aluku claimed otherwise. The Local leader of the area (Rwot kweri) said that all previous efforts to settle the conflict had failed.
Okello Massimo claimed that while passing through the compound of Aluku, she ambushed him and threatened to kill him if he did not tear down his house and leave her land which is meant for grazing her animals, as well as neighbours’. She explained that her father had temporarily given the land in question to Okello’s father who was hoping to return to his original land on the other side of the stream with his children. Aluku said that she had no problem with Okello but her only concern was that Okello undermined her because of her gender.
During the mediation, the legal assistant trained by ARLPI listened to both sides of the story and advised the two parties to forgive each other and try to live in harmony.He also explained to them that both men and women have equal rights to own property including land and the need to respect these rights. He advocated for truth telling between both parties and urged them to stop fighting for land. He further stressed and emphasised the need to take mediation seriously.
Okello’s father acknowledged that the land on which his family was residing was given to him temporarily by the family of Aluku and he accepted to return to his own land together with his family. Okello accepted to demolish the house he had built on the piece of land and the two families agreed to live together as one in peace and harmony. The family of Okello requested to be given time to vacate the land and Aluku’s family accepted, giving them a period of two years. Both families agreed to a reconciliation to mend their broken relationship.