GULU: More than 1,826 residents of Lukodi Village in Bungatira Sub County in Gulu district are panicking as the National Forestry Authority (NFA) claims 165 hectares of land in the area. The residents, who are major victims and survivors of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) insurgency, say their fore-parents occupied and settled on the land in 1940.
Some of them were pushed out of their ancestral lands and settled in the area in the early 1990s at the peak of the LRA insurgency, which pushed people into the Internally Displaced People’s (IPD) camps and have since established permanent settlements.
Last month, NFA officials from Aswa River Range visited the area and informed the occupants that they intend to plant trees and demarcate the boundaries of the land this financial year starting next month. Joseph Otim, the NFA Sector Manager for Aswa River Range, told URN that the area was gazetted under the Lukodi Central Forest Reserve and earmarked for tree planting by an act of Parliament.
The NFA adds that the land measuring approximately 407.724 acres was offered to them by cultural leaders and later earmarked for tree planting. He disclosed that NFA will next week engage stakeholders and community members and ask the occupants to vacate the area so that they can start tree planting.
Relating to concerns from the residents, Otim says that NFA is only mandated to give 5% of its land to the community for planting trees and cash crops. However, the move has triggered tension among the affected households, who say they have no other land to settle on and were not aware that the land belongs to the NFA.
David Komakech, the Lukome Sub County LC councilor, says that his office is also affected, and says that the residents are in panic. He appeals to the NFA and the government to degazette the area for human settlement.
Komakech says that the majority of the people affected by the proposed move are victims and survivors of the LRA insurgency who are orphans, widows, and widowers and are not aware of their ancestral lands.
Wilson Abola, one of the affected people, says that the eviction will greatly disrupt the recovery process of the people who are living in abject poverty following the LRA insurgency and the 1995 Lukodi Massacre.
Richard Ochola, the Youth Councilor for Lukodi, says they are not aware that the land belongs to NFA, adding that the young people in the area have no other place to settle.