Day Two:

Posted: August 16, 2007 in Blog

After a breakfast of toast, omelete and African tea, we set off for the site of a heated land dispute. We drove out of Lira and down a rough dirt road. The first one we took ended up being the wrong route— something we found out from a woman scooping water out of puddles formed in the tire ruts. Shocked that she might be collecting drinking water, we stopped to talk to her. But she told us in the local language that her oxen refused to drink clean water, preferring instead to drink the salty water from the roads.

Off we drove down the proper dirt road. We soon came upon an angry, stick-wielding group of over 200 people. Some held rusty knives and spears with metal arrowheads. It was all a little unsettling, but here we had found the land dispute we were looking for. The group represented more than 2,000 people living on 310 hectares of land the government wants to turn into a national forest. (The real irony here is that there isn’t a forest on the land. Instead, the government wants to plant one. Go figure…)

Here’s what the group looked like:

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So we hung out there for a while, interviewing people, taking photos and putting together a story that is running this week about how these people don’t have anywhere else to live and work if they get kicked off this land.

We spent the rest of the day in area trading centres, which are small communities of between 300 and 500 people that don’t have electricity. The government has started a push to get them power, but they say any trading centre that wants electricity has to contribute 30% of the cost of bringing hydro to the area. Nobody is telling them yet what that total cost will be. But in the meantime they’re excited about the prospect of having cooler to keep their medicine (for their animals and for themselves) properly stored in fridges. “Maybe we could even get a cooler for drinks,” one of the residents told me.

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