Moroto, Uganda – Residents in Moroto district in the Karamoja sub-region are up in arms against suspected ghost investors, claiming they have seized large chunks of their ancestral land without a physical presence.
The claims are rampant in the villages of Pupu, Nakiloro, Nakabat in Rupa Sub County, and Musasi, Kosiroi in Tapac Sub County—an area home to about 30,000 people.
Local residents complain about numerous markers on their land without their knowledge, preventing them from accessing their rightful land, formerly used for pasture.
Mr. Mark Loputhnyang, a member of Musasi village’s land committee, speaking to the Daily Monitor, said their land has long remained undeveloped. Presumed investors, whom they have never seen, use agents to deny people access for agriculture.
“We don’t know who these investors are because even our district leaders claim they don’t know them, and how they got into our land is confusing us,” he said.
Paul Lomerinynag, another resident, said they would have to start using bows and arrows as weapons to fight for their land since the government removed guns.
Mr. Simon Nangiro, chairman of the Karamoja Small Scale Mining Association, said ghost investors throughout Karamoja block serious investors from setting up factories in the region. He emphasizes the need for the ministry to visit the ground before granting mining licenses.
“A lot of minerals are leaving Karamoja, but the region does not know whether they pay royalties or not,” he said.
Mr. Nangiro appeals to the Ministry of Minerals to always visit the ground before giving a mining lease to any investor.
According to a recent survey by Safer World, an organization fighting for miners’ rights in Karamoja, a total of 190 investors hold exploration and mining licenses in the region. The survey indicates that most of these investors have never consulted the local community, nor do they exist on the ground.
Mr. Gerald Eneku, in charge of the Karamoja Mines Inspectorate, could not answer our repeated calls.