Land Grabbing has Acholi questioning whether they should be more hospitable or not.
Whether a tribe or a clan can live in isolation or not has generated a strong debate among residents of Olwo, Bedagonya village in Alero Sub County, Nwoya district during Kabake, a community debate sponsored by Conrad Adenuer Foundation Uganda.
Like other communities in Northern Uganda, residents of Bedagonya village who are recovering from the effect of the long conflict perpetuated by members of the Lord’s Resistance Army rebels, generally, Acholi as tribe are suspicious of other tribes.
The challenge here is that majority of the over 1.2 million people who are resettling back to their original villages after the end of hostility that drove them into the internally displaced persons camps consider anyone who is not a native of their area to be a land grabber.
This has led to underdevelopment especially in remote villages in most of districts in Acholi sub region which was the epicenter of the LRA led war.
During Kabake, is a weekly community debate that is recorded and aired on 102 Mega FM, one of the leading radio stations in Gulu district (northern Uganda) every Sunday between 10AM and 12NOON, the community of Bedagonya generated and discussed a topic about being generous to other tribes.
The topic was; Is it right (appropriate) to live in isolation as tribe or not?
America Mario Okello, an elder from Ayom clan who is in support of a tribe or clan living in isolation argues that mixing with other tribes will dilute Acholi way of life and its heritage as well.
“Culture is the way of life and if anyone comes with his or her foreign belief, definitely he or she will destroy ours. We have to protect our way of life and its beauty and the best way to do it is that we should live on our own,” says Okello.
Okello blamed poverty in Acholi to allowing other tribes to settle among the Acholi.
“The reason why we are poor is because we allowed other tribes to settle on our land. They later turned against us, stole our livestock and now we are destitutes. If we were cautious and we did not welcomed them with an open arm, our cattle could have not been stolen. We would be rich!” argues Okello.
Among those who were in support of a tribe of living in isolation was also Galvin Okello.
Okello says mixing with other people from different background will breed the practice of prostitution.
Okello noted that other tribes do not observe commercial sex as something which is bad something which Acholi culture does not condone it.
During the Kabake in village of Olwo- Bedagonya, Geneva Odong, another resident also put a strong argument supporting that Acholi should live in an isolation.
“If you welcome an outsider, he will chase you away from your land. He will buy part of your land and will later turned against you,” says Odong.
“Are you not aware of what is happening in Lakang in Amuru district? Other tribes are getting land there and Acholi has now become squatters. I strong disagree with those who think that living in isolation is a bad thing. It is not! Be very careful with those who come from outside because you will never know their intention,” notes Odong.
But out of the twenty two (22) people who contributed during Kabake that was recorded last Sunday from Olwo- Bedagonya village in Alero Sub County in Nwoya district, only seven (7) were in support of either a tribe or clan living in isolation.
However, 15 people who contributed during the Kabake chaired by David Mwaka Obalim were in strongly in support of tribes or clans living in harmony with others.
They argue that no one is an island and it is very difficult to rely on your own knowledge if you have to develop.
Augustine Okello, the first speaker who is in strong support of tribes mixing with others says there is strength in numbers.
“I cannot imagine a tribe living on their own. Like elephant grass, if you are many, you can fend off your enemy. I want you to follow my footstep and say, no tribe should live in isolation.
Another resident, Simon Opira argues as a result of mixing with tribe, there will intermarriages.
“If in your family, you have diseases which are in the genes and are hereditary, it is very important that you marry from outside your family line so that the next generations are free from such diseases. It is very important. If not, then the disease will never go away because children will keep passing it on,” Opira observed.
Tabu Tito, another resident who is also in support a tribe being generous and welcoming says knowledge sharing can transform life.
“If you come into contact with other tribes, you will learn new things that will transform your life. Those who think they can live in an isolation should know that this can result into incest. We cannot live in the dark,” notes Tito.
Out of the twenty two participants who were against the debate that a tribe can live in isolation, majority put strong arguments that without coming into contact with others, people will still lag behind in terms of development.
According to the participants, through contact with those outside their locality, one can learn a new language, appreciate education, road construction and new agricultural practices.
They also asked Innocent Aloyo, the programme producer of Kabake to visit them regularly saying such debate is healthy since it is a platform that give them the opportunity to give views on issues that directly affect them as formers internally displaced persons after over two decades of violence.
Like other districts in Acholi sub region, Nwoya is grappling with violent land conflict.
The growing land conflicts in Nwoya district has been attributed to the discovery of oil wells in the area, according to a report by SaferWorld, an indigenous NGO which strive for a peaceful world.
The group says after oil deposits were found in the area, it has documented cases of sexual abuse against women, violence attacks and land grabbing among others.
Betty Atyam, the Project Officer of the organisation says a study they carried out in 2014 on conflict assessment on land conflict between the Acholi and the Jonam with the main focus on the Purongo land conflict highlights a number of issues among the prominent ones are the discovery oil in the region and land for settlement.
Atyam noted that oil discovery in the area has pushed up the prices of a piece of land up.
She says on that ground, individuals are therefore grabbing land while others are rushing to buy land in the area with a view of benefiting from the potential oil industry growth.
The SaferWorld recommends that the government should make conflict in the area a national issue in order to resolve it peacefully.
Nwoya has six oil wells at it doorstep at Pabit Parish out of the 64 already discovered viable oil wells in the country.
Another problem the issue of land boundaries between neighbours and cultural practices that does not allow women to inherit land.
Report by James Owich