NEBBI. Leaders in West Nile have been urged to prioritize land issues if the rampant land conflicts are to be minimized.

Speaking during the launch of the land awareness week at the Nebbi district headquarters on Monday, the resident district commissioner (RDC) Nebbi, Mr Christopher Omara attributed the increasing number of land conflicts to errant leaders who politicize land issues hence jeopardizing effective peaceful resolution.

He said the unresolved land conflicts have negatively impacted on agricultural productivity and destabilized once stable families.

“This should not just be an event but a sustainable move to task our leaders not to mix land issues with politics but take active role in promoting amicable settlement of land disputes,” he said.

Omara also tasked the ministry of lands, housing and urban development to build the capacity of other institutions like the land committees at higher and lower levels and cultural leaders among others involved in the settlements of land disputes.

The RDC observed that women, widows and orphans are the most vulnerable categories of people affected by land disputes.

Mr Denis Obbo, who represented the Permanent secretary ministry of lands housing and urban development implored the population to register their land regardless of the land tenure system under which it is possessed.

“Make sure you register your land even those held under the customary and fee hold tenure systems because short of that you are not the owner but the user of the land you claim to be yours,” he said.

Obbo said most people in the newly created cities like Arua among others have not registered their land because most of the land is held under the customary land tenure system.

He anticipated increased land issues in the new cities on account of the new infrastructural plan which the city dwellers and others will have to comply with for effective and orderly infrastructural development.

He, above all, encouraged the people to have legal documents for their land as the physical planning board has already hatched plans to visit West Nile to acquaint the people with the land amendment Act.

Mr. Emmanuel Orombi the Nebbi district chairperson tasked the government to build the capacity of elders in the community because they are key in resolving land issues.

He also wants the judgment of the elderly recognized by the court of laws as people who are capable of resolving land conflicts.

Orombi observed that ‘bush’ lawyers are to blame for most of the land conflicts in rural settings since they manipulate land issues to safeguard the interest of the rich.

“Women and the elderly and other vulnerable members of the community have been accused of witchcraft in order to have their land grabbed as the lawyers go ahead to defend the grabbers,” he said.

The Weeklong land awareness was organized by the ministry of land, housing and urban development in partnership the Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (PELUM) Uganda, Ox-Fam and Trocaire among other partners.

The event targets at least 7 districts including; Zombo, Nebbi, Madi Okollo, Arua, Adjumani, Moyo and Pakwach.

During the event, members of the public will be sensitized on land and also get free legal aid from a team of lawyers set up in what has been termed as legal clinics.