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The Acholi Inheritance: A Legacy Contested

The transfer of over 45,000 hectares of Acholi Sub-region’s government land into private ownership has raised eyebrows.

The Ministry of Lands’ dossier indicates that private parties have secured over 158,100 hectares through both leasehold and freehold titles. A total of 213 titles have been issued on government land from 1968 to 2023, spanning 158,175.98 hectares, with 113 titles (45,244.53 hectares) as freehold and 100 titles (112,913.45 hectares) as leasehold.

Prof Jack Nyeko Penmogi, the provisional leader of the Uganda Land Commission, stated unequivocally that freehold ownership on public land is illegal. He declared, “Upon confirmation, such titles will be revoked. Public land is only available for lease, with extensions upon lease expiration.” The data shows that Gulu District is home to 106 of the 213 government land titles. Agago District has the smallest number, with five titles (55.55 hectares). Amuru District has 16 freehold titles (191.4 hectares) and three leasehold titles (1,862.3 hectares), making up a total of 2,053.7 hectares.

Gulu possesses 39 freehold titles (2,122.52 hectares) and 67 leasehold titles (108,657.62 hectares), amounting to 110,780.14 hectares in total. Kitgum has 17 freehold (206.8 hectares) and 13 leasehold (102.73 hectares) titles, adding up to 309.53 hectares. Lamwo has 16 freehold titles (16,052.17 hectares) and one leasehold title (80.52 hectares), totaling 16,132.69 hectares. Nwoya, known for its extensive commercial farming, has six freehold titles (1,054.32 hectares) and 16 leasehold titles (2,210.55 hectares), totaling 3,264.87 hectares. Omoro and Pader have no leasehold titles; Omoro has six freehold titles (22.66 hectares), and Pader has eight (25,539.12 hectares).

Looking at the Acholi Sub-region as a whole, which covers 2.8 million hectares across eight districts, there are 5,494 land titles processed by the Ministry of Lands. Out of these, 2,075 are freehold (174,313 hectares), and 3,419 are leasehold (593,875.2 hectares), with leasehold titles making up 62 percent.

Gulu leads with 3,998 titles, 1,555 being freehold and 2,443 leasehold, encompassing 240,019.88 hectares (28,167.89 hectares freehold). Kitgum has 223 freehold (6,608.96 hectares) and 526 leasehold (11,705.98 hectares) titles; Nwoya has 55 freehold (44,286 hectares) and 274 leasehold (293,848.4 hectares) titles; Amuru has 145 freehold (23,067.74 hectares) and 82 leasehold (21,901.98 hectares) titles; Omoro has six freehold (22.66 hectares) and 80 leasehold (49,718.61 hectares) titles; Pader has 46 freehold (52,742.71 hectares) and eight leasehold (4,386.54 hectares) titles; Lamwo has 30 freehold and one leasehold title; and Agago has 15 freehold (356.87 hectares) and five leasehold (381.46 hectares) titles.

Mr. Otinga Otto Atuka, the Acholi chiefdom’s deputy paramount chief, has voiced concerns over reports from citizens about coercion from the National Forestry Authority and the National Environment Management Authority. He underscored the plight of settlers in Pabbo Sub-county’s forest reserve who, in the aftermath of the war, are asserting complete ownership and demanding land titles.


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