Amuru Women petition District Chairman over illegal sale of Amuru Hot Springs

AMURU – Women from Amoyokuma, sub-ward, Amuru Town Council have petitioned Michael Lakony, the LCV Chairperson, Amuru district to intervene as they struggle to recover land they claim to be communally owned.

In April 2020, Samuel Odonga Otto, the former Aruu County Member of Parliament (MP) entered an agreement with the family of Charles Nyeko to buy 21 acres of land around the hot springs in Amoyokuma sub-ward, Amoyokuma ward, Amuru Town Council, in Amuru district at Shs 15 million with the aim of constructing a hotel.

On the 4th August 2021 about 150 people, all residents of Amoyokuma sub-ward invaded the area that had been developed as a tourist site, named “The Buffalo Camp” vandalizing a generator and solar panel stands, 500 concrete pillars used to erect the fence around the land. The locals also pulled down chain links as well as injuring a casual laborer.

Christine Acan, one of the petitioners says the land in question is a communally owned land of which Odonga Otto entered an agreement with only a family that did not have full rights of deciding on behalf of the community members. Acan says that as married women, their rights on the land were also violated.

Joska Acen, another aggrieved petitioner claims that ever since the site was ‘dubiously” acquired by the former legislator, they have experienced a swift change in rain pattern.

According to Acen, in the past one month, the whole area experienced heavy hail storms which destroyed their crops and killed animals among other impacts which are being attributed to the interference with the hot springs where elders perform cultural rites.

Florence Lamwaka, also a petitioner, says they want the district leadership to intervene in reclaiming the land which was illegally sold to the legislator, and the town council authorities investigated for accepting bribes leading to the sale of the land.

In a recent interview, Rwot Justine Ocitti Binyi, the Chief of Pagak Clan said the purported development being brought by Odonga Otto diminishes the core value of the cultural site which has provided rain that fed the community for decades.

Michael Lakony, the LCV Chairperson Amuru district says the district executive committee will have a meeting on Monday next week. He however, says they will also launch an investigation to ascertain whether the construction which was ongoing at the site was approved by both the town council and district planning units.

Lakony says that they also want to understand whether the construction conforms with the NEMA act which creates a buffer of at least 25 meters from the water source.

“According to Lakony, the district will not enter in the land dispute between Odonga Otto and the community members. Let the people who sold the land to Odonga Otto finish the dispute between the community and the legislator, for us as the district, we shall only investigate the legality of the development.”

Efforts to contact Samuel Odonga Otto, the accused, were futile. He however, in recent interviews accused Rwot Binyi of inciting violence and behind the 4th August vandalization at the tourists’ site.

Before the petition, there had been a number of attempts by the locals to prevent Odonga Otto from using the land.

In April 2020, community members led by clan leaders from Pagak and Lamogi summoned the legislator and his known friend, Gilbert Olanya, the Kilak South MP to understand the circumstances under which the land was acquired without their (community members and cultural leaders) consent.

Amuru hot springs are located West of Gulu City, approximately 53 km. It’s about 3 km off the Amuru-Gulu road slightly opposite Ker Kwaro Pagak.

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