“Acholi land is experiencing unprecedented destruction of its environment especially its forest cover through uncontrolled and unsustainable exploitation of its forest resources”.
GULU-UGANDA: The Paramount Chief of Acholi, one of the Lwo ethnic groups based in Northern Uganda, Rwot David Onen-Acana II, has taken the issue of environmental degradation in his Kingdom a notch higher by appealing to the Prime Minister of Uganda for intervention.
In a meeting of February 23, 2016 from the office of the Prime Minister, Dr. Ruahkana Rugunda, Rwot Acana said there are “unscrupulous charcoal dealers” who connive with some local leaders to carry out this destructive activity leading to loss of vital resources important for the survival of its people.
“Acholi land is experiencing unprecedented destruction of its environment, especially its forest cover through uncontrolled and unsustainable exploitation of its forest resources. Large chunks of land have been laid bare as trees are indiscriminately cut for charcoal”, said Rwot Acana in a written speech.
He complained that regulatory authorities like National Forestry Authority (NFA) have not been helpful in curbing the situation and leaving it to go out of hand.
“Acholi land is consequently losing vital resources important for the survival of its people. This is a matter requiring your urgent attention”, says the Paramount Chief.
Acana queries Apaa land demarcation
Rwot Acana also tasked the Prime Minister to explain why government went ahead to demarcate the boundary of the land at Apaa in Amuru district purported to be Adjumani land although he had requested government to delay the process.
On May 18, 2015, he wrote a letter to the Prime Minister, requesting government to delay the process of demarcation of Apaa land to allow for consultations, mobilization and sensitizations of the different stakeholders.
“My letter dated May 18, 2015 requested you to delay the land demarcation in Apaa to allow me consult, mobilize and sensitize different stakeholders. This was not adhered to and up to date the issue of boundary at Apaa still remains contentious. I request that you allow my stand but also you commit to a discussion on the matter between government and the traditional institution of Ker Kwaro Acholi”, reads part of the speech. “As a matter of concern, government needs to improve on the way it handles sensitive issues. Reckless actions usually only serve to aggravate the matter”.
Besides this land conflict with neighboring districts and South Sudan, the sub-region is also experiencing community land conflicts which are threatening to destroy the society completely. The years of wars and conflict has destroyed the core tenets of traditional land management and land administration systems.
“Today, with the shift of power dynamics away from the elders into the hands of younger people and with the weakness of the law, land has become a very contentious issue. I request the support of government to deal with the pertaining land problems”, the speech reads in parts.
The cultural leader also reminded government to implement the August 13, 2010 Presidential directive to his office to fund Agricultural Development project initiated by his cultural institution whereby 54 cultural leaders from Acholi would benefit. The project was meant to be implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture to empower the chiefs engage in modern farming and the NFA to support the Paramount Chief open his land and plant tree seedlings.
“Unfortunately both directives were not implemented to date. I do raise this with you to take up the matter so as to have these projects implemented”, Acana said.
The Paramount Chief said that over 40% of the broad spectrum of community’s problems in Acholi is addressed within the informal cultural setting of the Acholi society and is responsibility of the institution and its various structures to superintend over these responsibilities.
“It is for this reason that it is important to realize that the Ker Kwaro Acholi (KKA) is an important player in Acholi; mobilizing communities on development, promoting reconciliation and peaceful coexistence, promoting values and value systems and now carrying out oversight on government preprograms in Acholi”, he says.
Rwot Acana also told Dr. Rugunda of residual problems of the over two decade long insurgencies which are not being adequately addressed. He says despite the current stability where the gun has fallen silent the overall process of reconciliation has not been concluded.
“Government needs to understand the extent to which the Acholi people got torn apart internally and also with its neighbors and other peoples of Uganda and develop or support initiatives that support the reconstruction of relationships and trust within the Acholi and with others as an important step towards galvanizing the overall stability of Acholi and also Uganda”. He said in his speech.
He said because of the crisis in the region, the Acholi lost up to three generations of its population in terms of human capacity development; with a large section who are non-competitive socially, culturally, economically and even politically.
“This social disempowerment is contributing significantly to under development of Acholi. Much as government is committing substantial resources in Acholi, the ability of the people to effectively utilize these resources is short chained by human capacity deficits”, said the chief.
He also decried the situation in Acholi because it has the highest number of suicide cases in the country as witnessed in the post conflict era and the fact that Nodding symdrome has also devastated part of the region.
“Dealing with these requires well structured approach that is multi dimensional. Currently the status quo is being left to fester because even the efforts by cultural leaders have been limited by resources. Government needs to maintain its vigilance and to involve KKA in its consultative and implementation process to strengthen interventions”, says Rwot Acana.
He told the Prime Minister that he intends to petition government to ensure that traditional institutions gain wider recognition, to ensure that appropriate recurrent and development expenditures are compensated and to stop the “unstructured ad-hoc, spontaneous and inconsistent support to traditional institutions to regularize and made more transparent and accountable”.