Oil Discovery Blamed for Increased Tribal Clashes in Uganda

January 8, 2014 10:18 am0 comments by:

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Kampala-Tribal land conflicts have increased in Uganda as a result of the discovery of oil.
The conflict has pitted communities that once lived peacefully, against each other, as they scramble for land around the oil fields.
Worst affected by the conflict are the Acholi and the Jonam-two ethnic communities that have a strong historical background dating back to the times of migration in Africa.
According to history, the two tribes who are said to be direct descendants of the legendary Labong and Gipir migrated into Uganda around the 15th century from the Barel Ghazel in present day South Sudan and each settled on the other side of the River Nile.
The two tribes however lived peacefully until two years ago when oil was discovered in the area.
“We lived peacefully with our Acholi brothers until news came in that oil had been discovered in the park from then on our relationship has never been the same’ explains Nestroy Owiny Jal Lobo an elder who lives near the oil fields.
“That land around the place called Palango where Total E&P is carrying out exploration has become a battle field in fact last season one of the farmers here in Nebbi lost his three acres of simsim. Some people came during the night and sprayed the entire garden with herbicides” Owiny blames the loss on the land conflict between the Acholis and the Jonam.
Oil cited in the conflict
“This conflict is magnified by the existence of oil because people expect benefits from oil. So it’s the one causing all these problems that we are now facing” Ocakacon Abora another victim of the conflict.
Efforts aimed at resolving the conflict
“We have tried in vain through the intervention of the elders and religious leaders but instead the conflict is getting worse” explains Nestroy Owiny.
Owiny says they are considering resorting to the traditional way of resolving the conflict where the two tribes will meet in a traditional ceremony and elders will perform rituals like throwing sand in the air with the hope that those who are making false claims over the land will get curses.
Army drawn into the conflict
Senior army officers of the Uganda People’s Defense Forces-UPDF are accused of grabbing chunks of land around the oil fields.
The accused army officers include, Brigadier Otema Awany who allegedly owns 2000 acres, Major Lapenga one square mile, Fred Odoki 200 acres, Major Oringa 1000 acres, Odoch 400 and Oulanyah 1000 acres.
Victims Speak out
“As I speak now, I have nowhere to call home as my grandfather’s land has been grabbed by senior army officers and one of them Brigadier Otema has taken the land that belongs to Panyango Ggroup Farmers where I’ am a member “ laments Godfrey Abora a youth from Pakwach.
Committing suicide over land
“People are considering committing suicide because land gives us a sense of belonging and if they take it we will then prefer death” explains Abora with a sign of indignation.
Army Reacts
The Continent Observer however could not reach the accused army officers for a comment But Lt. Col Paddy Ankunda the Spokesperson of the Army and Ministry of Defense in an email said the victims should petition courts of law if indeed their land has been grabbed by the accused army officers.
Ankunda said the army cannot intervene in the matter arguing that it’s a case involving individuals.
The discovery of oil and other minerals in Uganda is threatening to turn into a curse as senior government officials maneuver to cash in on the finding.
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