How WOUGNET VSAC member helped prevent grabbing of school land in Apac District
Most conflicts in Uganda are between families, clan’s members and Tribes. These groups conflict over borders of Land, desire for more land, ownership and inheritance issues, and rights to access land. They can be small-scale disputes resolvable through informal community mechanisms but this has always failed worsening into long-running violent and hostilities among people in communities.
The growing importance of land as an asset has also led to a demand for public authorities to return land given to them as far back as 1940s and 1960s for schools, health Centers and other government administration units. Land-related conflicts between government and communities involve huge pieces of land which include: Forest and game reserves, wetlands, government ranches and government schools to mention but a few.
It’s a reason we bring you this story of land dispute of Adir Primary School in Kidilani Parish, Chegere sub county, Apac District that started way back in 1930 as a sub grade school and later on passed over to government as a government school in 1980. The school as lived for 73 years as government controlled and a lot of development has since taken place on the land including construction of class rooms, teachers staff houses and over 550 pupils from the same village enrolled for studies.
In the year 2007, Mr. Okello Moses and Okidi Naputal both started claiming school land by going extra miles to file a court case against the school and School management committees. This move was shocking to communities and this led to a resignation of the serving chairman of school management committee fearing to lose the case and to be arrested as well. Court proceedings went on from November 2007 to November 2014 when a ruling was passed in favor of school.
Erach Bosco WOUGNET VSAC, and also the current Chairman School management committee adir Primary School, shares his roles played in recovering the school land.
“When Mr. Okidi and Okello served the school with a call from grade 1 Magistrate court Apac in the year 2013, asking the school to submit in their defense within 14days, the Chairperson school management committee then resigned from his duties immediately fearing he would be imprisoned’’, He adds that, I was just a member of the school Management committee when I decided to call a meeting of all the parents whose children study in the school and members of the committee requesting them to take heart and promised to defend the school since WOUGNET built my capacities in various aspects and the little knowledge gained would help in defending the school in Court.
I later advised the School to get a lawyer of which they did and the case went on till the year 2014 when it was ruled in place of school. However, a number of challenges were met in following up the case and among others includes: long distance to court, the ruling took over 7 years which was so disrupting with personal activities and lots of money was involved like contribution towards the lawyer and somehow parents would get tired of making contributions, He Says.
For that, land conflicts between Communities over public Institutions still continues in many parts of Uganda because land is a vital asset, source of wealth and symbol of respect. So Government of Uganda should reinforce land governance structures, including renewing the mandate of the local council 1 and local council 2 in handling land issues.
Dialogue should also be supported for resolving land conflicts. The Government of Uganda should officially recognize and support the village chiefs as facilitators of dialogue and Mediation.
A story By Bosco Erach, Kidilani Parish, Chegere Sub county Apac District.
Edited by Apio Lillian Mercy- KIC Project – Officer