Atiak sub-county is an administrative division in Amuru district, in northern Uganda, and is one of the areas where USAID SAFE has supported the improvement of land governance institutions through provision of training and equipment.
The bottom level of government land institutions are the Area Land Committees (ALCs), responsible at the sub-county level for land inspections and boundary demarcations. Before the interventions of SAFE and its local partners, the Atiak ALC only did land inspections. Disputes over land (such as boundary disputes) were referred to the LC Courts or to the magistrate courts. However, the formal court system was effectively inaccessible for poor rural residents, due to excessive costs and endemic delays.
The traditional methods of dispute resolution in the north, where almost all land is held communally, were through tribal elders who were the repositories of knowledge about land boundaries and rules and practices of customary land holding. Unfortunately, one consequence of the protracted war with the Lord’s Resistance Army, which resulted in the vast majority of the population being removed to Internally Displaced Person camps, was severe disruption to these traditional practices.
Through the intervention of USAID-SAFE, with local civil society partners ARLPI (Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative) and ULA (Uganda Land Alliance), the traditional dispute resolution mechanisms are being revived with traditional elders and ALCs trained on different methods of conflict mitigation including mediation.
As a result, local communities are regaining access to faster, less expensive and more culturally appropriate dispute resolution mechanisms. “In the month of February alone, we [the ALC] settled 7 land disputes through mediation and the highlight being that in November 2016, the Magistrate court referred a case on land disputes to be first handled by the traditional structure which is currently being handled by the traditional leaders with the help of the ALC team”, said Dida Masimo, Chairperson of the Atiak ALC.
The USAID Supporting Access to Justice, Fostering Equity and Peace (SAFE) Program. For more about the SAFE Program, visit us online at: www.safeprogram.ug.