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Panic as Coop Union Starts Fresh Boundary Opening in Amuru

Nighty Aromo, says that the team from WACU on Sunday intruded on her 280 acres of land and planted several mark stones on it without her consent.
Gen. Salim Saleh poses for a group photo with WACU authorities in 2020. Photo Credit - OWC

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There is panic among residents of Otwee Town Council and Layima Sub County in Amuru district as West Acholi Cooperative Union (WACU) embarks on fresh land demarcation exercise. 

  

WACU has since 2017 been in tension with more than 2,000 residents in the area with homosteads lie in Amuru and Nwoya districts. 

The residents claim ancestral ownership of a 10,000 hectares plot of land which is also claimed by the union. 

  

In 2017, WACU through court bailiffs accompanied by armed police and men and the army evicted more than 500 households from the area in question, a lot household properties and houses were also destroyed.  

It took the intervention of the district leaders to stop the boundary opening exercise on grounds that it was irregularly done.   

However fresh tension has emerged among the people especially in the areas of Katatyer West and East Villages in Pagak situated in Layima Sub County and Otwee Town Council after officials from WACU and armed men were last week on Sunday 18th April 24, 2021 seen planting mark stones in the disputed areas.  

Members of the community and local leaders in the areas who say that they are unaware of the activities being undertaken by the so-called officials from WACU on Saturday 24th April 2021 convened a meeting seeking to block any further activities by the union on their land.

  

One resident, Nighty Aromo says that the team from WACU on Sunday intruded on her 280 acres of land and planted several mark stones on it without her consent.  

The 50-year-old mother of nine who has already planted six acres of ground nuts, maize and millet on the land says that she is disturbed by the act of the WACU officials, looking at what happened in 2017.  

 

60-year-old Venturina Acayo who claims ancestral ownership of 220 acres of land in the disputed area since 1970 equally expressed worries that the presence of WACU and armed men in the area is an indication of renewed tension with its occupants.  

The mother of eight says together with her neighbors they have run to the Layima Sub County Chairperson and Resident District Commissioner of Amuru to block further activities by WACU on their lands.  

 

Bernard Ocira, another resident who claims ownership of 200 acres of land in the area told URN on Saturday that his grandfather left them the land in the early 1970`s even before the presence of WACU in the area, although they later fled to the Internally Displaced Camps but only to find their land being claimed by WACU.  

Geoffrey Opira, a Human Rights Activist and Paralegal Officer in the area says that WACU is irregularly claiming ownership of large chunks of land in the area as opposed to five acres they were given in 1989 by members of the community.  

He also faulted WACU for failing to produce documents of land ownerships, bypassing leaders and elders in the areas while executing their duties on the contested land.

Cosmas Apuke, the Layima Sub County Chairperson-Elect who attended Saturday`s meeting over the land told URN that the residents are living in fear of looming eviction and destruction of properties due to radicalism of armed people now deployed on the land in contest.  

He added that a formal concern has been forwarded to the office of the Resident District Commissioner Geoffrey Osborn Oceng and he has been tasked to meet WACU officials and the affected residents next week.  

However, our repeated phone calls to Bob Ogen the WACU General Manager over the allegation was neither picked nor returned. 

  

During a visit by The Chief Coordinator Operation Wealth Creation, Gen.(rtd) Caleb Akandwanaho Salim Saleh in November last year, Frank Oyugi the WACU Chairperson disclosed that they have a big land wrangle where over 3,000 acres of their land in Amuru district is occupied by squatters. 

 

In his response, Saleh promised to check with the Amuru Local Government officials to forge a way forward over the land tension. 

 

West Acholi Cooperative Union was established in 1960 for Agricultural Production, Processing and Marketing.    

The Union had a total of 96 registered Primary Cooperative Societies but just like many other cooperatives in the Country, its collapse was greatly contributed to by the 1987 various economic policies that encouraged Private Processors and marketers to operate side by side with cooperatives.  

The LRA insurgency in Northern Uganda was also another major factor that led to the collapse of the Union.  

The union currently has 67 Primary Cooperative Societies that have been revived with a total of 10,876 farmers engaged in the growing of Maize, Cotton, Simsim, Sorghum, maize, rice and Soya beans.