UGANDA, Tororo | Real Muloodi News | Tororo District police are investigating a dispute between the Tororo Catholic Archdiocese and businessman David Ochieng Okolong over 1,208 acres of land.
Mr Ochieng filed a case at Tororo Central Police Station accusing the archdiocese of trespassing on his land, which includes parts of three villages in Kayoro Sub-County: Angorom, Angololo, and Amunoit.
Mr Dickens Ahimbisibwe, officer-in-charge of Tororo Central Police Station, stated that both parties have been called to record statements on the subject.
“The investigations are ongoing and the parties have been directed to present relevant documents and witnesses,” he said.
Mr Ochieng accused Rev Centurio Olaboro, Tororo Archdiocese’s coordinator for peace and justice, and Mr George Alfred Obore, chairperson of the archdiocese’s land committee, of organising a group of persons to interfere with the mark stones on the land in dispute.
“If the church wanted land, it would have used a rightful channel but not using force because I have evidence of grown up eucalyptus trees that I planted along the edges of my land but can you imagine that with even this, the church comes and starts to claim ownership of part of it. This will not happen,” he said.
The businessman claims that he has been utilising the same plot of land for decades after purchasing it from Abajabi, one of the area’s major Samia tribes.
“Nobody had ever come to claim this land until last Saturday when l received information about people planting survey stones on the surveyed land,” he said.
Mr Moses Ouma, 40, an Abajabi tribe member, claims the archbishop has never owned land.
“We have been using the contested land as grazing ground, especially during dry seasons, until a time when my grandparents led by late Ojambo transferred its ownership to Mr Ochieng after being compensated to a tune of Shs25 million, so we don’t know how the church is coming now to claim ownership,” he said.
According to the chairwoman of Amunoit Village, the dispute must be settled peacefully to restore tranquilly in the region, as many people earn a living from farming on the contested piece of land.
“Even me as a leader, I have always known Mr Ochieng as landlord and whoever has been cultivating on this land has been seeking permission from his agents who take care of the estate,” he said.
The archdiocese, on the other hand, claims to have purchased the contested land in 1993 from former Samia Bugwe lawmaker George Alex Wejule.
“From that time, the church has been renting it to its Christians to cultivate and that people have not been complaining until of late when they heard that there were some people trying to stop them from using the land,” Rev Centurio Olaboro, who spoke on behalf of the church, said.
According to him, the church initially alerted police about the exercise to open the limits of its land to avoid future confrontations.
“We informed police but we were surprised when we saw people accusing us of trespassing into their own land,” he said.
Rev. Olaboro stated that the church is in the process of establishing demonstration and research centres on the land.
“What I have to categorically state is that this land belongs to the church and we have documents supporting it and someone coming to begin interfering with it means he is fighting the church,” he said.
The church, as one of the country’s largest landowners, is combating many illegal immigrants on its huge land in various regions of the country.
The land has remained a contentious subject in many regions throughout Uganda, with wealthier landowners evicting impoverished tenants from their ancestral lands, arguing that they are illegally settling on the property.
The administration is pushing for land reforms, claiming that they will end the country’s widespread evictions.
Individuals with land titles who are wealthy and politically connected are accused of evicting impoverished tenants from their ancestral land because they are unlawfully settling on the land.
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