Our long-suffering brothers and sisters of Acholiland, who have endured decades of unspeakable indignity and crimes against humanity under Museveni’s Family Rule, are yet again about to be subjected to another act of dehumanization.
A few weeks ago, the decision was taken to give each Acholi living in Apaa ten million shillings, twenty iron sheets and twenty bags of cement (if they received a National ID between 2013 and 2014) or two million shillings if they have no National ID. They are expected to immediately vacate the land and thereby pave way for the establishment of “investments” by a shadowy South African investor called Bruce Martin.
It is reminiscent of the coordinated displacement and forced encampment of Acholis which at a point resulted into as high as one thousand deaths per week in concentration camps (like Acholi Pii and Pabbo) because of the inhuman conditions and treatment that they were subjected to as Internally Displaced People during the so-called LRA Insurgency.
I say ‘so-called’ because responsibility for many of the atrocious acts of cruelty has never been thoroughly investigated and squarely established…but this and related questions will perhaps be better explored in a post-Museveni regime and only then can we can have closure.
Back to Apaa, the obvious but unanswered question is for whom Bruce’s “investment” is being made if the native population—which should ideally benefit from such an undertaking—is going to be uprooted and discarded to God knows where?!
For those who may not be in the know, Apaa has for years been a hotbed of a violent, regime-backed land grab effort that has studiously been resisted by natives whose only defense against military hardware has been last-ditch acts of desperation like stripping naked in front of ministers and government surveyors.
Land grabbing in Apaa is a fractional representation of the scourge that Museveni’s overstay has wrought on communities across the breadth and length of Uganda these thirty-four years and counting.
A few examples will illuminate my point:
Across the country, hundreds of square miles of land including ranches in Nshaara, Maruzi, Ruhengyere, Aswa, Njeru, Lusenke and Entebbe livestock stations have already been grabbed so far. More swathes of land in Mbarara, Apac, Kabarole, Kayunga, Kamuli, Pader Buikwe, Bulambuli, Entebbe, Singo and Kibaale are targets.
And let’s not forget Kasokoso, Shimoni Demonstration School land, Naguru et al.
The vice features a toxic mix of ethnic arrogance, an impotent and corrupt judiciary whose remedial orders are routinely spat on by the high and mighty, armed bandits dressed in our police or military uniforms and the tacit or overt support of the ruling class which is bankrolled by illicit business interests—foreign and domestic.
The mistaken endgame is a Uganda that has no peasants, a subservient working class that survives hand-to-mouth and is beholden to a constitutional dynasty of sorts.
Nikikafuuhe; over our bodies!
Just about every government inquiry, NGO research paper or media report on the subject of land grabbing in Uganda has come to the above conclusion. The Landgrabber-in-Chief and his Associates ignore all these warning signs and continue full steam ahead with their nefarious designs.
The case of Acholiland is compounded by the fact that twenty years of armed conflict decimated livelihoods and distorted the social-cultural set up of Northern Uganda so much so that today, there are missing age groups in many communities.
Of course this phenomenon isn’t exclusive to Acholi—it is particularly evident in the NRA’s theatre of war, Luwero, where once proud and self-reliant Ugandans who funded and resourced Museveni’s “liberation” war through bumper harvest sales and cooperative societies savings now stand in long queues under the sun to receive handouts in the form of cupfuls of bean seedlings from the same man who “liberated” them and proclaimed a “fundamental change—not a mere change of guards”.
Disgusted with the state-of-affairs, a few brave luminaries, political leaders and intellectuals from Northern Uganda have occasionally mooted secession and called for the creation of the Nile Republic.
In characteristic arrogance, Museveni always responds to this proposition in the same way he ostracizes Buganda for proposing an alternative model of government. He breathes fire and brimstone, threatens treason charges and outlaws such talk.
Fortunately, the notion of the Nile Republic has not died. And for as long as the incumbent junta treats Uganda like their personal business, I hope that that notion never dies.
If for nothing else, that proposition should formally be tabled in Parliament or some other forum to cause a debate on how the constituent parts of Uganda want or ought to be governed.
As a country, we need to talk. We cannot continue in this abusive relationship.
Granted, successive post-independence regimes were not entirely blameless but the entrenched dictatorship of Museveni, who has ruled longer than all previous presidents’ tenures combined, is setting the stage for a fire that will mirror the bloodletting of the Nigeria-Biafran war of secession.
You’ll see regime apologists and sycophants accusing me of incitement and preaching patriotism and unity yet under the cover of darkness, they’ll be plotting for the next mass eviction and land grab.
Spin it as they may, this arranged marriage called Uganda has spectacularly failed.
The decision to evict the Acholi from their cradle land and compensate each individual with an insulting package of a few thousand dollars, iron sheets and cement is the best piece of evidence that shows how little if at all the ruling junta in Uganda values or even consider their humanity, cultural attachment to the land and the centuries of ancestry buried in Apaa.
We know that Museveni would rather die before letting anyone evict his kith and kin in Rwakitura… not even an investment project by Tesla, Apple or Airbus would have him capitulate.
Why shouldn’t the same logic apply to the Acholi?
That the NRA junta doesn’t consider our brothers and sisters in Acholiland worthy of having their land rights, among other basics respected, is now evident. Apaa has been declared a game reserve yet human beings have lived on that land for centuries.
If someone declares your homeland a game reserve, what are they equating you to?
Let the idea of an amicable divorce (i.e. peaceful secession) settlement be explored so that Museveni’s Uganda deals with the new Nile Republic from a position of respect in its own right as an international legal personality; a state with the capacity to enter into relations with other states.
After all, self-determination/secession is recognized and protected right under international law.