By David Lumu
The frantic jostle for minerals in Karamoja by companies has caused a problem of large scale land acquisition, a preliminary report by the Center for Basic Report has revealed.
Prof. Josephine Ahikire, the executive director of the Center for Basic Research (CBR) said that the concentration of mining companies in Karamoja has a direct implication on women rights and how communities interface with companies that have acquired land to establish mineral industries.
“It is not really about pin-pointing, but identifying communities that have experienced the large scale land acquisition problem and looking at how women are interfacing with the process,” she said.
Land policy experts also argue that the quest for land acquisition in Karamoja is raising a puzzle of land development versus the protection of individuals and communities.
Dr. Rose Nakayi of Makerere University Law School told New Vision that although large scale land acquisitions are not an accident of contemporary time, government must come up with a clear delimitation between government and public land.
Nakayi said that what is spanning out in Karamoja is “a challenge of international capitalist players and the desire to have Uganda develop.”
“Acquisition of land by foreigners must be explained to the local communities. Foreigners cannot acquire customary land, they can only acquire leases,” she said.
Eng. Simon D’ujanga, the state minister for energy said that ever since the country’s remotest area was pacified by disarming cattle rustlers, over 100 mineral companies have been set up by investors.
“In the recent past, we have tried to market the region and the country at large. We now have over 100 mineral companies in Karamoja and we are encouraging more investors,” he said.
First lady, Janet Museveni, the minister for Karamoja affairs is credited for championing the transformation of Karamoja by courting donors to invest in the region.
A 2011 survey by the Uganda department of geological survey and mines at the ministry of energy found that Karamoja has gold, limestone, uranium, marble, graphite, gypsum, iron, wolfram, nickel, copper, cobalt, lithium and tin. The survey indicated that land in Karamoja is owned communally, which makes it difficult for the mining companies to identify the rightful owners for compensation or consultation.
Prof. Ahikire said that as companies begin to explore the minerals in Karamoja, voices of land grabbing, environment damage, limited information of land laws and marginalization of women are starting to come out.
D’ujanga said that land in Karamoja is acquired by investors according to the law. The Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) puts the population of Karamoja at 1.2 million people.