Six Things I Just Learned About Land Grabs in Post-Kony Uganda

18 Mar

Last week I suggested that digging deeper into the roots of conflict and injustice in Africa should be on the cards for many, what with the mega-blow-up (and bizarre melt-down) of the whole Kony 2012 affair.

And so, since my movie date was cancelled, I have taken the past two hours I would have spent in a cinema researching land grabs in Uganda.

I was specifically looking at northern Uganda, nominally at peace now, but for how long? I found evidence of one spectacular case in the area of Amuru. There, the Madhvani Group of Companies, one of Uganda’s largest consortiums, looks to have successfully managed to get hold of a whopping 40,000 hectares of land on which it will grow sugar cane. Not surprising since its owner is a good pal of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. There was no information on how many people this will effect.  But one plaintiff, Jackeo Oballim, who tried to stop the deal in court, put it, “If they try to use force against our people, there will be another LRA in name of the land.”

It was easier to find cases in central Uganda, where a British company called New Forest is leasing 20,000 hectares of forest to grow pine and eucalyptus. According to an Oxfam report for 2011, more than 22,000 people have been evicted from three areas in order to give New Forest free rein.  Meanwhile another 2,000 people have been evicted in the Mubende region by the Ugandan army so that a German company called Neumann Koffee Gruppe can use it for coffee plantations.

But the largest deal involved the government of Egypt that began talks three years ago with the Ugandan government to take over an astonishing 840,000 hectares throughout the country for wheat and corn production. Its test farm will be located in Gulu.

According to a study by Samuel Mabikke, ever larger percentages of the arable land in poor African countries are slated for lease by all manner of moneyed multinationals. Citing the Global Land Project, he points out that in Uganda the deals represent more than 14 per cent of its farmland, 21 per cent in Mozambique, and an astonishing 48 percent in the D.R. Congo. “ Thus,”  he writes, “the consequences of these land deals can be expected to be very large for the local population and environment, with impacts such as agricultural intensification, forest degradation, and displacement of local populations, increasing local food insecurity and increasing poverty.”

Is that six things? I have no idea. But the point is that, as I’ve argued in previous posts, injustice and land poverty continues to thrive in some of the poorest and most conflictive parts of Africa. But apparently while there are still profits to be made, land grabbing will not be receiving the kind of attention Kony 2012 did. And it is more than likely that, as Mr. Oballim suggests, wars and conflicts won’t be going away any time soon.


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