By Mike Rwothomio
The disgruntled community of Pathen in the Wadelai Sub-county Pakwach District West Nile sub-region engaged in a serious protest and set ablaze an excavator machine and attacked workers undertaking work on the Wadelai irrigation scheme in Wadelai sub-county Pakwach district on the 22nd of May 2023.
The community was protesting what they claim illegal encroachment on their land at around 11. am by the contractor undertaking work on a 1000-hectare irrigation project.
Wadelai irrigation scheme is amongst the five pilot irrigation schemes across the country launched by the government under the Ministry of Water and Environment in 2016 – 2021 under the project, farm income enhancement and forestry conservation program to improve house incomes through irrigation facility development, agribusiness, and sustainable natural resources management.
However, the fierce land dispute between the Pathen community in Wadelai Sub-county and the government has been dragging on for a long with the community claiming that the project staff made a deliberate big mistake whilst recording the land agreement initially during the settlement of the land agreement.
The community that predominantly relies on their lands for farming claimed offered 365 acres to the government for the irrigation project but the project staff mistakenly recorded 356 hectares thus extending into their lands.
The community claims they can’t allow illegal encroachment on their lands.
The LC 3 chairperson of Wadelai sub-county Pakwach district Oramba Davidson Chope revealed that the highly charged mob in protest yesterday attacked three workers undertaking work on the irrigation scheme and also set ablaze an excavator machine.
Oramba added they were unable to put off the fire since the place is far off and there was no fire extinguisher around.
” The angry mob attacked workers using rudimentary tools like spears, Pangas, machetes hoes amongst others yesterday morning. They also burn an excavator machine completely over what they claim illegal encroachment on their land ” Oramba told the Whisper Eye News before adding that the three workers who were operating the machine under the supervision of the contractor were critically injured and are receiving treatment at Nebbi general hospital in Nebbi municipality.
When the Whisper Eye contacted the LC 5 chairperson of Pakwach district Mr Omito Robert Steen about the incident, he referred us to the RDC of Pakwach district Paul Eseru.
“Am out of the district, the RDC is better placed to do that. He was on the ground” Omito said in a wasup message.
According to the Ministry of Water and Environment, Wadelai Among other irrigation projects which were established and funded by the African Development Bank, Nordic Development Bank, and government of Uganda to the tune of Us$ 91.43 Is to be commissioned in June this year.
The RDC of Pakwach district Paul Eseru when contacted over the matter briefly said” Get back to me after thirty minutes, am still for a meeting”.
The project that is jointly implemented by the Ministry of Water and Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture, animal industry, and Fisheries also faced fierce resistance from the community of Pathen in Wadelai sub-county in 2021.
In 2021, many people were also arrested on allegations of sabotaging government programs that are intended to benefit thousands in the area in the nearby future.
Other Districts that the government’s five-year plan is being implemented include Kwen, Nwoya, Kasese, and Butaleja and the project is to expand into 40 Districts across the country.