Local leaders in the northern newly formed Gulu City have expressed concern over the city administration’s lack of sufficient land to carry out a number of development projects and help expand the city.
The leaders say several projects have so far been put on hold or entirely binned due to lack of space.
Francis Otim, a Councillor from Gulu City’s Bar-Dege division says most of the city’s would-be land was stolen or illegally sold off by the then corrupt leaders before Gulu was turned into a city.
“Right now because of land grabbing, Gulu City cannot carry out a number of developmental initiatives that require land because most of its land was sold when it was still a district,” said Otim on Monday.
“Up to now Gulu city is grappling with a number of development projects and local revenue being collected cannot buy land; yet formally it had land that was sold dubiously by certain individuals who were in leadership them.,” he said.
Some of the projects that the city has missed out so far include a proposed bulk market which was to be built by donors.
“The foreign donors required us to offer just four hectares of land, title it in the name of the city and they would build for us the market; but we couldn’t get that land because it meant that we would have to first buy the land, yet our local revenue is little,” Otim says.
“And even if we got the money, you know that government introduced the Integrated Tax Administration System where you collect money and it goes to the central pool” he added.
Gulu City is also said to be grappling to find land for establishment of a regional industrial park.
The city had initially mapped space at Lajwatek in Gulu East, but according to Otim, this land doesn’t belong to the city and is currently occupied by private owners.
In June this year hundreds of residents in this land openly told off the city leaders to find land somewhere else as they were not willing to move.
Mr Otim raised these issues while speaking at the weekly National Economic Empowerment Dialogue press conference in Kampala.
Speaking at the same meeting, Asuman Odaka, the NEED National Coordinator traced the land issues in Gulu back to the LRA war which he said provided an opportunity to land grabbers.
“The war that raged in the area for years forced many people into IDP camps and by the time they came back, they found that their land had been stolen and fenced,” he said.
“If you remember, there was even a proposal from government for the IDPs to be turned into towns and the residents were told that their old land was to be used for farming. Now you see that the City cannot be expanded because people came in a took over the land,” he said.