Solving land disputes in Northern Uganda

“This ‘Ker kwaro’ arrangement (traditional institutions) started long time ago with our ancestors who thought that whenever there was a problem in the community, there was need to sit at a round table and settle the problem amicably. The ‘Ker kwaro’ committee’s role is to understand the cause of the problem, work with the parties involved and decide a way forward in solving the problem. The ‘Ker kwaro’ don’t only solve land disputes, but any other issue that may arise in the community.

Mr. Romidial Okara, displays the file of one of the cases the ‘Ker Kwaro’ handled.
Mr. Romidial Okara, displays the file of one of the cases the ‘Ker Kwaro’ handled.

However, land issues keep coming up and they are settled as and when they arise to ensure the conflicting parties come to terms and live peacefully again.” Mr. Romidial Okara-the chairman of the ‘Ker kwaro’ committee in Paicho sub county shares about the traditional cultural institution as an alternative dispute resolution avenue in the rural communities of Acholi region. “People believe that we are fair and are qualified to precede their cases. The ACODEN involvement through training and sensitization programs has made our work easy because they keep us up to date on how to handle land cases; they tell us the other authorities we can work with like police; and teach us how to keep records of the cases we have handled in case anyone wants to refer to them which we never used to do. Since we started working with ACODEN, we have now handled and recorded eight land related cases.Okara continues.

“We got involved with the ‘Ker kwaro’ because these are already existing structures in the communities we operate; people believe in and respect them 100%. In case of any problem that arises, community members run to them first before reaching any other authority. Without them, we can’t come to a community and expect people to trust us as much as they trust these institutions; they command a lot of respect which has been nurtured over a long period of time. So we use them as an entry point to do what they are already doing but in a more organised and systematic way. These structures are also sustainable because they are always here for their communities; they are not controlled by funding; they are rooted here in their communities. So we identified them and built their capacity.” Paska Aciro- Project Officer ACODEN

“One time I was approached by a community member about a land dispute in Lakwana sub county, when I arrived at the mediation meeting organised by the community, I didn’t identify myself as part of the ‘Ker kwaro’ committee I just sat with the rest of the community members. During the meeting, I raised my hand and identified myself as part of the ‘Ker kwaro’ committee. I also mentioned that we had been trained by ACODEN in addition to our traditional skills of handling such cases. As soon as I said this, I was appointed as the chairperson of that mediation meeting and I had a lot of respect during the meeting. I managed to mediate between the two parties who came to an understanding and signed the mediation agreement.” “…despite the respect we command, we do not impose our authority or dictate what should be done; we request the people to allow us intervene and help them where we can.”  Bentarine Oulanya, a Woman representative on the ‘Ker kwaro’ committee in Paicho sub county.

Ms Bentarine Oulanya during one of the Ker kwaro meetings
Ms Bentarine Oulanya during one of the Ker kwaro meetings