Army Official Out to Steal Land from the Poorest

>> Tuesday, July 22, 2008

General Charles Otema is now the head of military operations in Gulu, Uganda. He commands the Uganda People's Defense Forces' 4th Division located there.

Gen. Otema is also at the center of a land dispute. Otema is accussed of wrongfully obtaining land -- commonly called "landgrabbing" by locals -- in Latooro County, a few miles from Gulu, one of the largest towns in northern Uganda.

100 families are now landless because of Otema's dealings. Acholi MP Simon Oyet has spoken out in support of the people who have been unceremoniously deprived of their ancestral land.

-XUG Editor

Brigadier evicts 100 families

By Yasiin Mugerwa & Al-Mahdi Ssenkabirwa
Jul 23, 2008 - 5:20:59 AM Kampala

The Fourth Division Commander, Brig. Charles Otema, is accused of grabbing an estimated 40,000 hectares belonging to internally displaced persons in the northern district of Amuru.

Area MP Simon Oyet (FDC, Nwoya) told Daily Monitor yesterday that the land in question is located in Latooro Parish in Porongo Sub-county, a few miles from Gulu town where an estimated 100 families are now landless.

“The land is now being guarded by people masquerading as soldiers in army uniforms,” Mr Oyet said. “It’s painful to see hundreds of my constituents being forced back to camp life because of Brig. Otema. Their crops were even confiscated from the gardens yet it is their land.”

When contacted yesterday, Brig. Otema denied displacing the IDPs, but said the land was vacant and free from human settlement. “The land I applied for was free and even if you go there now there are no people living on it. It was a game reserve which was gazetted during (former president) Idi Amin’s (RIP) time,” Brig Otema said.

He dismissed the land grabbing allegations as baseless and threatened to sue Mr Oyet for what he described as ‘tarnishing my good name’.“That’s a mad man [Oyet] and I am going to sue him for tarnishing my name and inciting the locals against me,” he said by telephone yesterday. “He is deceiving the country that I want to grab 40,000 hectares.

But the 40,000 hectares he is talking of is almost the entire size of Amuru District. I applied for 6,000 hectares and the district agreed to give me only 2,000 hectares which I accepted,” he added.

Mr Oyet, however, claimed that after he toured the land in question with representatives of some civil society organisations last Saturday, Brig. Otema’s brother, Mr Richard Todwong, who is President Yoweri Museveni’s adviser for Northern Uganda, sent him threatening text messages.

“They want to kill me because the people who were evicted want me to help them recover their land,” Mr Oyet said. “I went to the scene and found out that Brig. Otema together with his brothers had pushed our people back to camps yet that land belongs to people.”

The region, which is only recovering from two-decades of insurgency committed by the Lord’s Resistance Army rebels, is currently the scene of fierce land wrangles as displaced people return to their homes. The communal land ownership in the area has pitted several families against individuals seeking to acquire land individually.

Mr Todwong dismissed the allegations against him. “That MP [Oyet] should grow up and should stop thinking in a childish manner,” he told Daily Monitor by telephone.

However, Mr Oyet told Daily Monitor that following intelligence reports and a string of threatening text messages from Mr Todwong, he has now rerecorded a case on file no. ST-15/20/07/2008 with Gulu Police station against the presidential adviser.


About This Blog

The X.U.G (Xpose Uganda's Genocide) Coalition was created to bring to light the truth about Yoweri Museveni's woefully undemocratic regime and the ongoing secret genocide in northern Uganda, with the aim of the restoration of human rights and peace.

The coalition's secondary goal is to ensure accountability for reconstruction and development funds slated for war-torn N. Uganda by the US and other donors.

A crisis of epic proportions, the genocide being carried out against the Acoli for the last two decades has produced devastating consequences.

For the sake of current and future generations in Uganda, the world must recognize and end the genocide in Uganda. All Ugandans have a right to basic human rights, including the right to health, protection and education.

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