“Leave pie as pie,” Wasio Dicken Olak, the minister of land for Lango Cultural Foundation tells the Diocese of Lango and the community of Agwata Atidi cell over the ongoing land wrangle.
By Acipa Doreen
Lango – October 12, 2022: Some elders and residents of Agwata Atidi cell, Amuda ward, Agwata town council in Dokolo district where there is a land wrangle between residents and the Church of Uganda have heaped blame on the Church.
The aged people claim the Church wants to forcefully take away the land that belongs to the community.
The land wrangle between the community and St. Barnabas Church of Uganda is before the Chief Magistrate Court of Dokolo after the Lira Grade One Magistrate Court ruled that the land in question belongs to the community but not to St. Barnabas Church of Uganda.
The said land was offered by one James Okori (RIP) to establish a native Anglican Church, a Catholic Church; a school and a trading centre in or about the year 1946.
There has been contentious wrangling between the Anglican Church and the community over land ownership, for years.
In 2011, the Anglican Church dragged approximately 20 members of the three communities to Court over encroachment on the said land. Some of them [the accused] have [had] constructed grass thatch houses, permeant houses and others have been cultivating the land.
Among those who were taken to Court are Alele Tom Okeng, Adoko James, Nelson Ongom, Milton Apeto; Sam Ogwal and Martin Ogwal, among others.
In August 2019, the Grade One Magistrate Court of Lira dismissed the case with costs. The Anglican Church went ahead and appealed at the Chief Magistrate Court of Dokolo.
The current case before a Dokolo Court is against the community members but not St. Barnabas COU.
Paskolina Ewaa, an 80-year-old woman narrated that her late father’s brother (uncle), Alyel Cuku gave the land to Agwata primary school and left them the remaining piece for cultivation. She said there was no problem.
“10 years ago is when the land wrangle began, but I started cultivating the same land when I was 20 years old,” she recalled.
Ewaa said when she was cultivating this land 60 years ago; the Church was at Acan Owilo Pida before shifting to Omuku Ceke and later on moved to Agwata where Agwata primary school is located.
According to Ewaa, the land wrangle is between the Church and the community, not even the school that was given the land in question.
She accused the Diocese of Lango of fighting over land with them yet they have stayed there for decades and buried their ancestors in the same land. “And the land demarcation is there,” she said.
“No one from the community quarreled or had issues with the Church but we only realized that the Church has started extending the demarcation of the land which was never given to them,” she added.
John Okori Alfred, who said he was born in Agwata Atidi in 1971, said he received a letter written by Acan & Co. Advocates summoning them before Court on 10, January 2011.
“My late father Mr. Faustiono Omola gave birth to me here and it is still where I am at the home of my brother Orec Omola and my home is not in the Church land because the demarcation has not changed,” Omola narrated.
He now accuses some members of Atek Okwero-wee clan of having a hand in the land wrangle simply because of their selfish interest yet they stay at Tetugu village which is located 3 kilometres from where the land in question is located.
“The land that our grandfathers gave was not ‘1000 by 900 square meters’ as the Church is demanding and the demarcation was done in the year 2004 but still, the Church encroached into the land,” he added.
Betty Akullo, a resident of Agwata Atidi narrated that her late mother, Margret Aloka was a teacher at Agwata primary school in 1980 while she (Akullo) was only 8 years old. She said the land wrangle was not there.
“The confusion began when the compassion project and some white woman who came from abroad and brought eye glasses, medications for older persons and constructed the health facility.”
Meanwhile, 90-year-old Dorita Akello said she was married there in 1951 and that the land wrangles had not yet started.
To qualify to be a
occupant of land in Uganda, one must have settled and utilized the land unchallenged by the registered owner for twelve years or more before the coming into force of the 1995 Constitution. This is a person who settled and used the land before 8th October 1983.
According to her, the land in question was given for school construction in or about 1946 and the Church was not yet in place.
Mzee Tom Obel, a resident of Agwata Atidi cell, Amuda ward in Agwata town council in Dokolo district, said the land wrangle is not only a result of segregation between the denominations but also from different tribes with selfish interests.
“In 2004 the boundary demarcation was done but the Church never accepted in the presence of the area LC 1 and LC 3 among others,” Obel added.
According to Uganda Land Act Chapter 227 which commenced on 2 July 1998, article 23(2) states that the boundaries of any area of land which has been set aside for common use shall be marked out in such a manner, including any such manner as is customary among the persons who will use that land, to enable those persons to recognize and keep to those boundaries.
The Diocese of Lango speaks
David Livingstone Okello (DL), the spokesperson for the Diocese of Lango said the Church won the Court case.
“The residents should be evicted forcefully but the Church preaches for love and they cannot forcefully send away the community from that land, but leaving them to exit peacefully has made them big headed and others sold their land cheaply,” DL said.
Okello continued that the Land belongs to God and the community should not try to have bad intentions in acquiring what belongs to God.
He said the Church knows that negotiations are supreme and for that, they considered talking to the community to peacefully leave the land, adding that “God have ears where by the community should be careful”.
“The grand children should stop the habit of demanding for the land given whole heartedly for developments by their ancestors,” Okello said.
He urged the lawyers to always advise their fellow lawyers to properly handle cases, especially Church-related cases.
But “as Church, we have left the door open for negotiations and solving the case amicably”.
In the Uganda Land Act meaning “lawful occupant” and “bona fide occupant”: lawful occupant means a person who entered the land with the consent of the registered owner, and includes a purchaser; or a person who had occupied land as a customary tenant but whose tenancy was not disclosed or compensated for by the registered owner at the time of acquiring the leasehold certificate of title.
Wasio Dicken Olak, the minister of land for Lango Cultural Foundation said this case has never reached their desk.
However, Olak said there are things to be done when giving land to a public institution.
On the land that was given by the great-grandparents for community development, Olak said “pie should be left as pie”.
“If the community has accepted that they know the land and who it belongs to, it should be put in writing with all the clear values and the take home for the land owner but if anybody is disagreeing then the issue should be resolved immediately and amicably,” the cultural land minister said.
He said the cultural institution must have a voice if any family is giving their land for public institutional development, adding that cultural leaders can only block or stop the move with very strong reasons like the number of children in that family, among others.
“But weather it is a public asset, no land should be taken forcefully,” Olak added.
Some of the indigenous tree species that the community kept on referring to and that were meant to demarcate the land still exist.
The school is also located in the same land in question but it is not participating in the land wrangle.
As a result of the land wrangle, the community has refused to open the access road to the school.
Some parents are also not sending their children to Agwata primary school as a result of this land wrangle.
Some rich men who bought the same piece of land are not part of those summoned before the Court and yet they have constructed and are living on the same land
The land where the wrangle is taking place is way too bigger than the land that was given and demarcated in 2004.
Further, the community are still occupying and cultivating the land in question. Some members of the community have stayed in the said land for over 50 years.
Most members of the community who have been taken to Court are Catholics but they are the ones surrounding the Church of Uganda.
This story is done with funding from Northern Uganda Media Club (NUMEC).