By Aliker David Martin
Last week, Aruu County Member of Parliament Odonga Otto and his Kilak North County counterpart Anthony Akol were embroiled in a bitter argument that ended in a physical altercation.
Hon. Akol accused Hon.Otto of tarnishing his name in his constituency, alleging that he collected money that was earmarked for the compensation of former occupants of the Amuru sugar plant land.
He also argued that he only received money in compensation for his land and not community land.
Hon. Otto argues that the position of Acholi Parliamentary Group(APG) is that land should be leased and not sold outright and accuses Hon. Akol of conniving with Government to sell communal land.
However, Hon.Akol allegedly received more approximately Shs.300m; Hon. Otto admits he raised this in front of their voters because they have betrayed Amuru electorates.
The fraudulent sale of 10,000 acres of land in Lakwang, Amuru district for the establishment of Madhvani sugar factory is at the centre of a fight between Hon. Akol and Hon. Otto.
Since 2006, government of Uganda earmarked this land for Amuru Sugar Works Ltd to set up a Sugar Factory in Lakang, but the move was resisted by landowners, who instead dragged the government to court.
In 2015, the minister for lands, Hon. Betty Amongi survived an attack by residents of Amuru led by local leaders and Members of Parliament who blocked her and ministry surveyors from accessing a venue where she was scheduled to launch survey of land for Amuru Sugar Works.
In the process, a number of women stripped naked and rolled in dust accusing government of grabbing their land.
Eventually, Ministry of Lands, Madhvani Group of Companies in partnership with government in 2017 forcefully surveyed and acquired the 10,000 hectares of land in Lakang.
The infamous physical altercation trending now on social media between the two legislators in parliament questions whether Amuru leaders betrayed their naked mothers.
On a number of occasions, Hon. Otto has time and again accused politicians of being involved in cutting deals with Madhvani and government to push for the take over of the said land.
In 2015, when Hon. Amongi survived being lynched by Lakang residents, she accused two MPs of demanding for a bribe of sh1.5bn to let the project to go ahead.
Therefore, was Hon. Otto punched for being a whistle blower or as Hon. Akol asserted, ”there is a background to this issue.” What do the two legislators know about Hon. Amongi’s allegation?
In 2012, court ruled that the plaintiff failed to prove that the land in question was communal land after they sued government for land grabbing.Some of these leaders have joined government after reaching agreement on personal terms.
In May 2018 the Budget Committee of parliament approved Shillings 12 billion for compensation of people affected by the development of Amuru Sugar works project.
In a letter dated April 3rd 2018 to Minister Amongi,Hon. Lakony advised the minister to first verify the list of beneficiaries before the compensation is effected.
Lakony states that the list is fake and comprises of security operatives and crime preventers who are not residents in these villages.
If Hon. Lakony and other leaders of Amuru knew that there were irregularities with the said list, why would they go ahead to receive compensation?
Secondly, if this is part of public land that court ruled against, why are we spending tax payers money to compensate individuals for public land?
Who are we compensating and what are we compensating? A number of people lost lives and property during the demarcation and evacuations. Why are we not compensating them?
Unfortunately, as of March 2019 out of 209 project affected persons meant to be compensated, 21 were fully compensated, and 93 given only 45 per cent of their money while 95 people had not yet received anything reports Monitor.
Acholi leaders need to proactively generate consensus on land use and clearly come out with a comprehensive plan on how they intend to use this asset instead of being reactionary. Such decisions must be made by sober minds rather than business leaning and corrupted minds.
In conclusion, it will remain on record that without the consent of land owners, in the absence of neighbors to witness the survey and without particulars of land owners; Amuru leaders betrayed their naked mothers by accepting the compensation.
The author is an opinion Leader based in Gulu.