What transpired earlier this month is an indication of frustration from the locals whose voices are not being heard.
On Saturday 9 February 2013, the land dispute in Nwoya district in the area of Got Apwoyo village in Purongo Sub County transgressed from a latent to a violent status. Many angry young people - armed with axes, hoes, machete and sticks - marched and caused destruction to the Amida Investment Company in the area. The company is said to have launched efforts to acquire land in Got Apwoyo area back in 2004. However, what remains unclear is the ownership of the disputed area. To some, the place is said to have previously been under the ownership of the Ministry of Agriculture, but this ownership was later transferred to the locals.

The company is alleged to be in collaboration with a US–based company to invest in ranching and beef production for domestic and export markets. The Ministry of Agriculture claim full ownership and user rights of the disputed area. This claim is strongly rejected by the locals including their leaders who have requested the Ministry to produce the land title and legal documents supporting their claim of ownership. The land dispute is not new and could have been avoided a long time ago if there was mutual trust and transparency between the conflicting parties. I could rather state that, the failures to resolve this dispute as early as it is the reason as to why the dispute transgressed and manifested into violent attack and destruction of the company assets.

I don’t support the locals taking the law into their hands or violence to make their voices heard. Instead they should engage in dialogue. What transpired earlier this month is an indication of frustration from the locals whose voices are not being heard. To the rest of Ugandans they may not understand why someone has to carry a spear or a machete to defend and protect his/her land rights. It may of course sound funny and archaic, in a country where the legal and judicial institutions are functional. What I am saying is that these people have reasons as to why they did so; and only a conversation with the individuals involved would clear the dust about such a response.

Most of the population in Purongo Sub County, Nwoya district do not approve of Amida Investment Company and the cattle ranching project, but a few acknowledge that proper acquisition of land would present an opportunity for host communities if it makes durable contribution to their development. Within these lenses, there are two simple things to take care of; the land owners, and the land acquisition process. Once these concerned parties are rightfully addressed your business will see light and the reverse is true. The challenge at times is just about failing to balance the local and investor interest. The land dispute involving Amida Investment company is said to have brought in a number of actors with varied positions and interests and it could be true that this contemporary land conflict is brought about by weak land governance regime and manipulation unless otherwise.

Inadequate level of transparency in the transaction of the disputed land totaling 3000 hectares, poor regulatory quality of the land management committees, weak local leadership, weak rule of law, the low control of corruption and individual greed are some of the contributory causal factors associated to the current land dispute between Amida and the locals. At this point in time and the manner in which things are unfolding, police deployment to calm the situation is just a temporal measure. What should be done is to; understand the dynamics relating to the increasing land conflict, land governance, and explore the role of power relations and perceptions of various stakeholders for the competing land claims in Got Apwoyo.