CSOs Weigh in as Land conflicts continue to claim lives and property

By Mike Rwothomio

On May 11, 2024, 57 huts were set alight in Arisi Village, Otheko Parish, Paidha sub county Zombo district after an elderly woman identified as Beatrice Anewa, was reportedly killed and dumped along Nebbi-Paidha road.

Her relatives from Kalwang in Nebbi sub county, Nebbi District upon catching wind of the news, stormed the deceased’s place of residence torching huts in retaliation alleging that she was intentionally killed by her in-laws.

The incident left hundreds of displaced people in a total state of bother.

Three days later, the LCIII chairperson of Paidha Sub County William OKethi in an interview attributed the incident to protracted land dispute between communities in the area.

The harrowing incident adds to the long list of previous fierce land wrangle cases in Zombo that had caused loss of lives and properties. A case in point is the last year’s incident in which over 200 huts were torched in Aka Sub County, following the reported murder of the chairperson Zombo Tea growers cooperative union. Statement from west Nile regional police spokesperson Josephine Angucia later linked the incident to protracted land disputes.

Relatedly, late last year, more than ten people were arrested by police in Jang Okoro Sub County, after more than 10 huts were torched in retaliation, following the reported murder of two elderly persons identified as Angelina Thikulu and a one Hillary, all in their 70s. Area leaders also attributed the incident to protracted land disputes in the area.

In 2022, a protracted land dispute in Athele village, Mundel Parish Nyapea Sub County led to the burning of over 50 huts displacement of hundreds.

The rife land cases is happening in a district where land is held in accordance with a set of rules binding a certain people (customary tenure system).

Community perspective on causes of land conflicts

The struggle for ownership more often arises between relatives and neighbours , with a section of locals and leaders pointing at rampant land grabbing as a major factor exacerbating the vice that has become a major security concern in the district, that has a population of over 200,000 people majority of whom are rural based and predominantly rely on subsistence agriculture.

A resident of Mundhel Parish Nyapea Sub County only identified as Kumakech said “we have a big problem with the cultural leaders. They are easily bribed with goats to rule in favour of an illegal land owner thus increasing some of this land wrangles we are seeing almost daily”

The Clan chief of Avari chiefdom Evaristo Kerunega, blames the district leaders for failing to speak the truth on land matters.

Some residents interviewed by this publication blamed chairperson land boards in various sub counties for levying exorbitant fees on locals attempting to acquire land titles thus discouraging them from taking full ownership of their land.

Micheal Ngamadhe, the chairperson land board of Aka Sub County attributed the increasing cases of land wrangles to the incompetency of the sub county courts whilst executing their duties.

To some stakeholders, much as community policing is being done, the move seems not to be having a significant impact as the vice continue to persist.


Given the deep-seated challenge of land disputes in the area, Life concern (LICO), a non-governmental organization based in Zombo district has launched a four year project dubbed “unlocking citizens land rights for peaceful co-existence”
Four sub counties of Nyapea, Paidha, Atyak and Jang Okoro with contentious land disputes has been earmarked for this project aimed at directly addressing the rampant land wrangles.
Kakura Emmy Kizito, the executive director of life concern during the programme launch recently at Zombo district headquarters said the project will involve activities like community dialogue, awareness, reconciliation of conflicting parties amongst others.

He said “we shall involve religious leaders, cultural leaders, police, opinion leaders, the media and the conflicting parties to see how we can reconcile them over time”.
For the initiative to have a long lasting impact, the organization also plans to engage in physical site visit of the conflict area to conduct dialogue and also empower and facilitate area land committees to aid their work in helping some selected under privileged members of the public in the project areas attain their land titles.
“We shall also use the area land committees and facilitate their activities such that they help our people to acquire their land titles at the grass root level” He said

Stella Biryema, the project officer told this publication in an interview that “We are looking at how we can address the issue of rampant land wrangles and we are starting with Nyapea Sub County and others will follow. It will be for one year each in all the four sub counties”

Meanwhile Alex Pithua, the executive director Zombo Press Association welcomed the new project that he believe will help to address “the rampant dire situation on the ground” calling for a formidable partnership with the media for the initiative to have immense impact in the community .

Land tenure system in the area is customary, literally meaning for one to sell or acquire land, it should be to the consent of the family to which the land belong. However that is contrary to what is happening in Zombo district, where an elder in a family can decide to sell land without the families consent thus spring boarding some of the said land conflicts.

Leaders reacts on the new project

The clan chief of Avari chiefdom in Nyapea Sub County where there is ongoing contentious land wrangles has welcomed the project, calling upon the organization to roll it out summarily calling for police extensive involvement in the four year project.
“I’m so happy that life concern has taken up the issue of land wrangles in Zombo seriously, you people would have started it yesterday. I was almost killed because of land conflicts in my area. It’s quite unfortunate that our district leaders don’t speak the truth on land matters here, we request you to ensure police is equally involved in the dialogue so that our people stay in peace” He said

Michael Ngamadhe, the chairperson land board Aka Sub County pleaded that the project be extended to Aka Sub County as well, confirming of over 20 unresolved land related cases that might soon culminate into fierce fights.

“It’s a good project but I beg you people of life concern to extend it to Aka sub county where we are living in panic because community are threatening each other daily on land related matters. We don’t have genuine sub county courts to resolve land matters in our area, please think about us” Ngamadhe pleaded.

Meanwhile the district community development officer Samuel Ocaki, shared that the project has come timely and cautioned chairpersons land board across the district against levying exorbitant fees on locals for acquisitions of land title.

The LCV chairperson of Zombo James Oruna Oyullu has pledged commitment of working together with civil society organizations, religious leaders, and cultural leaders to curb the continuous deep seated vice in the district.

The minister of land and production in Alur kingdom John Pascal Wapokra told stakeholders at the project launch that “As Alur kingdom, we also use dialogue and we commend life concern for initiating the programme. Many people always say we don’t act but am saying as kingdom, we don’t use force, it’s the police and army that come in when violence escalates”

Recently, Ubimu Phillip Rauni Olarker III said the kingdom is focused on curbing land wrangles amongst its subjects and cautioned his chiefs against promoting the vice in the kingdom.