KAMPALA — Government has been dragged to court over the presidential directive to lease out land at Aswa Ranch to private entities and persons as free public land.
In their law suit filed before the constitutional court the five petitioners including a retired Supreme Court Judge, Galdino Okello Moro, retired Bishop of Kitgum Diocese Macleod Baker Ochola , two former Chief Government Valuers, Livingstone Okello Okello, retired Teacher and a member of Acholi Technical Team Rosalba Oyaa and Centre for Public Interest Law claim that the leasing of the Aswa Ranch as free public land to private entities and persons instead of giving it back to the communities is inconsistent with the communal land rights in the customary tenure.
The group has sued government of Uganda alongside eight District Land Boards all from the Northern Uganda which include Agago, Kitgum, Amuru, Gulu, Lamwo, Nwoya, Omoro and Pader.
They are also challenging the June 9, 2017 directive that was issued by President to the Ministry of Agriculture to allocate ranches to 20 individuals including companies who had capacity to breed Ankole’s long horned cattle and others who can invest in livestock farming.
The Aswa Ranch is found in Pader District and measures about 105,400 hectares which is currently occupied by a number of companies and National Animal Genetic Resources Centre – NAGRC, Banuti, and Aswa Power Project however it was previously being used to transform the lives of the people in Northern Uganda.
According to the court documents, the group claims that the Constitution of Uganda which came into force on October 8, 1995 returned all the land to the citizens of Uganda and the same was to be owned in accordance with the tenures systems provided for in the constitution.
The petitioners further contend that the ownership and uses of land in Acholi is not defined in relation to occupation but in terms of the uses in which land is put thus the ownership of land in the Acholi is instead regulated by the traditional system through clans.
Justice Moro in his affidavit to support their petition stated there is no land in Acholi Sub region or any other region in Uganda which is empty or unoccupied, since all land in Acholi is owned by various clans since time immemorial.
Through their lawyers, the group wants a declaration that the actions of the District Land Boards of leasing customarily owned land in the Acholi Sub region on the basis that it is public land is inconsistent with customary land tenure and the proprietary rights guaranteed in the constitution.