In Genesis Chapter 1 Verse 6 God said “ Let there be an expanse in the midst of water….” which created earth and in Verse 11, “God said let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seeds and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed…” Land and water enable plants to grow and edible creatures to live on earth and water.
This is what sustains the lives of human beings. Land is therefore a very critical aspect and plays a vital role in so many spheres of the livelihoods of human beings such as agriculture, livestock, energy, minerals, water, wildlife, forestry, and human settlements. Unfortunately, the land resource is interfaced with numerous challenges including climate change, depletion of soils and most importantly, land grabbing and forced evictions. These are being orchestrated by human activities. The evolving state of land use and the associated rights possess a wide range of challenges which affect sustainable land use.
Forced evictions from land occupied by individuals and indigenous peoples is a major challenge being faced in Uganda today. Several cases are in court today, many of which are instigated by greedy, ruthless and inhuman/sadistic persons. There are cases where 80-90 year old senior citizens are evicted from the land on which they have lived for decades and even buried their loved ones. There are also families which entirely depend on that land for survival. We have seen several publications showing how those families are sent to the destitute arena and made to be refuges in their country. Sometimes it is said that the evictions are done in the name of development. It is very absurd that livelihood is no longer given priority in Uganda as development projects are given preferential treatment over citizens’ livelihood. To make matters worse, Uganda subscribes to a number of international laws and guidelines on forced evictions but never observes the principles stated therein.
Uganda has therefore come in the spotlight over the common practices during forced evictions, which are mainly characterised by violence. Batons, teargas, water cannons, rubber bullets and live bullets are used against those resisting eviction. The victims also face arrests done ruthlessly in a dehumanising manner and are usually detained, charged and prosecuted on grounds of disturbing the public peace and order by police and other security agencies.
Forced evictions have resulted in overcrowding of families in small alternative settlements they find, loss of employment and livelihood, family break-ups, increased alcohol intake and drug abuse, loss of education opportunities, food and water scarcity as well as cultural erosion. These call for immediate interventions if sustainable livelihoods and peaceful co-existence are to be maintained as well as the bringing to an end of all land conflicts. It is very common to hear voices of the affected people appealing to President Museveni to intervene. “Pulezident Museveni mukama waffe tusaba otuyambe”. A president to be brought into such affairs speaks volumes in terms of the non-functionality of the state institutions.
Land is our mother and father. There cannot be life without it. God created and mandated us to live on it peacefully and with love for each other and not to fight each. He never told us to selfishly use it at the expense of other persons. He never told us to deprive other people of their livelihood derived from the land. He never told us to send people to prisons, maim them, disorganise their survival systems and kill them. Land is here for us all, it is enough for all of us living now and I believe even for those to come. It is our duty to manage it well, use it well and respect it. We should stop using it unsustainably; we should stop annoying God by disturbing His creation. The price to pay for this will be too high and costly. The souls of the dead due to land conflicts, the destruction of earth and water bodies, the harassment and destruction of vegetation will end us up into unprecedented misery. Let us take care, let us love our source of livelihood.
John Mary Odoy
Senior Citizen, rights and good governance advocate
Tel: 0782457990 Email: email@example.com
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