Maruzi Ranch: Museveni supports lease procedures, investor’s Palm Oil project


President Museveni inspects Amuru land for sugar cane growing recently. Photo credit 93.3 KFM

In recent years, many Ugandans got concerned, questioned manner in which lands in the country are given to investors, especially foreign!

Often, responses from authorities (government) has been that investment triggers economic growth and reduce on unemployment.

This explanation has vehemently been denied by most Ugandans, many of whom say government is targeting people’s land, with no clear compensation measures.

Countrywide, there are approximately 13 ranches. In Lango sub region, Maruzi ranch located in Maruzi county, Apac district has in recent months been a hot debate among Lango people, prompting debates on the floor of Parliament.

Debates arose after claims of fraudulent processes, resulting to issuance of new land title, lease to investor at paltry Uganda shillings 9 millions for 50 years, and evictions of locals who have lived on the ranch land, for nearly a decade taking central stage.

After witnessing the plight of the locals, and unlawful processes by officers in government, and some politicians, the Kwania County MP, Tonny Ayo, moved a motion on the floor of Parliament early this year, prompting Rt. Hon. Speaker, Rebecca A. Kadaga to direct relevant committee to take field trip of Maruzi (Apac) to ascertain the situations and make a report.

Now, after months of waiting, the Committee’s report is out.

Titled “COMMITTEE REPORT ON AGRICTILTURE, ANIMAL INDUSTRY
AND FISHERIES ON THE INVESTIGATIONS INTO THE GIVE-AWAY OF MARUZI RANCHING SCHEME AND THE ILLEGAL LEASING AND GRABBING OF LAND BELONGING TO THE RANCH”
, it explains comprehensively who played what role and who said what in its giveaway.

It reads: ” During the meeting which was attended by the Members of the Committee on Agriculture, Ministers and technical officials from Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, the Lango Parliamentary Group, the Apac district officials, officials from NAGRIC and NARO, the following issues were raised:

One, LPG expressed dissatisfaction and worry about land allocated to Hill Side Agriculture Ltd, a move they precieved to be in contravention of the law.

Lango lawmakers were skeptical about the viability of the project because the area in point is very dry yet if irrigation is to take place, permission will have to be sought from the Nile Basin Belt.

They also got concerned of the change of land use and land ownership as something of “great concern to the community”. These were few, of other great concerns the committee came out with in their April, 2019 report.

The area MP, Maxwell Akora is quoted in the report to have said, “there are some criminal activities taking place within the ranch.”

“The local people must benefit from the project in a sustainable way,” Committee further quotes MP Akora, adding, “The community needs assurance of environmental protection.”

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Speaking to TND News at the weekend, Hon. David Ebong Abongo, the chairperson “Save Maruzi Ranch”, the processes on the ranch, current evictions are against Law.

He says the processes are contrary to Parliamentary resolutions.

“There has been wanton abuses with almost 98% of media and leaders compromised. Attempts for any local meeting including that by Land and Equity Movement of Uganda (LEMU) has been blocked by police and state authorities,” he says.

“Over 1000 houses has been burnt, people injured, women raped and police don’t take up those cases but they have medical report. Its all executed contrary to Parliamentary resolutions,” he added.

A hut alledegly demolished by UPDF who have since been deployed to protect the ranch. Courtesy photo.

“The Parliamentary report is very clear on above illegal actions of both the Lands Minister and the area MP who are acting in contempt of Parliament. It recommended prosecution of leaders at all levels for the illegalities,” former lawmaker, Abongo notes.

On commodity prices for vegetable oils, he statically said. “Sesame/ simsim oil $2200 USD per ton. $2.5 USD per kilogram at wholesale price. Palm Oil 0.93 USD per kilogram or $650 USD per ton. Olive oil $3.21 USD per per kilogram; 3.03 million tones produced.”

He adds: “Canola Oil $859.73 USD per ton. Sunflower Oil $1.6 USD per kilo, 15.5 million tonnes produced. Soybean oil $0.94 USD per kilogram, 45.7 million tones produced. Peanut Oil $1.80 USD per kilogram, 5.03 million kilos produced in 2018.”

Mr. Ebong’s statistic and analysis showed that Palm Oil growing in Uganda isn’t profitable.

On another land title reportedly issued dubiously, he said as mandated, the Zonal Lands Office Lira, following request from the District Land Board gave a technical position to the district and brought to the district the provisión of Section 59(1)(c) of the Land Act CAP 227 guided the district on what to do but only got to know the district went a head and signed the MOU on a land they had not yet legalised the ownership and donating the lease to a dead Government Company.”

Museveni’s recommendations

While meeting Committee members, Lango MPs, Ministry of Lands officials, Apac district leadership, among other people, according to the released report, President Museveni observed the followings, and endorsed the Palm Oil project.

“There is a big problem of land fragmentation in the country therefore, out growers use their own land, it will not be economically viable because that land fragmentation.”

“When a need to expand Palm Oil growing in the country arose, Maruzi Ranch was selected because that land was available. He noted that such project can only be carried out where government has land,” the report said of President Museveni Yoweri.

The Committee report also quoted Museveni to have recommended that “the 54 square miles of land be given to the investor because the country needs alot of tallow that will be used in soap production.”

“He (Museveni) raised concern that the country was importing tallow for soap production yet this can be produced within the country.”

The President told the then meeting that Palm Oil production will change the livelihood of Lango people like those in Kalangala district.

However, it was minuted that the Head of State was against the proposal that the investor be given less land, adding the project “requires a lot of land.”

The President also recommended that an environmental impact assessment done.

On change of land use, the President was in support “as long as it’s authorized”.

Snapshot of President Museveni recommendations.

Compensation of squatters

On compensation, the President noted that the Internally Displaced People (IDP) started to use thethe ranch so, if they’re compensated it may cause problems to his government, and original owners.

He maintained that IDPs should be treated like all other IDPs.

More on this story (Maruzi Ranch) in our subsequent publication. To comment, reach us by E-mail – tndnewsnow@gmail.com, Telephone +256392896661, WhatsApp +256700702961


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