- Rebecca Nairuba & Merab Ingabire
THE ANTI-LAND GRABBING BICYCLE RIDING CARAVAN
The anti-land grabbing bicycle riding caravan is on.
This bicycle-riding caravan is about women coming together to stand against land grabbing in their communities. Women recognize that when land is grabbed or when evictions occur, they are the most affected with their children.
In some cultures, (especially in western Uganda) bicycle riding for women is taboo while in others, it is not. For those where it is culturally subversive, women do so not only to stand against land grabbing in this action but to also challenge the different patriarchal norms that oppress them and hinder their participation in leadership and decision making. It is cultural disobedience. While for those where it is acceptable bicycle riding serves as a point of unity and solidarity.
This week, various women groups struggling against land grabbing launched the “Anti land grabbing bicycle riding caravan” under the National Land Defense League across the country.
In Amuru, women rode from Amoyokoma to the district headquarters where they hijacked district leaders in a meeting. They were able to present their petition against the land grabbing happening in their community around the Amuru Hot springs. This caravan also follows a series of actions carried out by this community in the past few weeks including blocking Odongo Otto who attempted to construct a road to the hot springs.
In Kumi and Serere, women rode to demand that politicians and foreign investors desist from grabbing their land. The other demand was that the Ministry for Environment and Natural Resources stop the illegal encroachment on their land in the name of preserving a wetland.
In Ihunga, women rode bicycles from Kendobo village to Ihunga Parish and hijacked a meeting of the LCII Land Committee. They demanded the committee to approve their applications for land titles which have been rejected for many years while others have been tossed around for over a decade by the land officials and never received any land title. The previous land committee has been registering land for refugees in the Nakivale Refugee Camp land but not for the citizens staying around the camp. After listening to their concerns, the new land committee encouraged the locals of Ihunga to come forward and register their land
While citizens seldom have problems coexisting with refugees in their communities, they certainly do not appreciate the oppression that comes with it, especially in terms of evictions and land struggles.
In Logiri-Arua, West Nile, the National Forestry Authority (NFA) has been perpetrating evictions and land grabbing for a long time. Homes have been destroyed and several community members have also been assaulted. The women joined in the bicycle caravan to continue amplifying their voices against these atrocities demanding that NFA leave their land. NFA claims that this community is settling in a game reserve which the community denies having lived here for centuries. Some leaders at the sub-county headquarters reacted harshly towards the women but this did not deter them from presenting their demands.
African women have been arguably the most obedient and submissive in the past, accepting roles and responsibilities traditionally assigned to them with little or no question which left them confined to the kitchen and other home duties. They were never consulted or involved while important decisions were being made. They never owned land nor did they have control over what ‘their’ land was used for. Today, through the actions of courageous women like the grassroots women in this story, we see a different narrative unfolding. They are unafraid of breaking cultural norms; they fearlessly stand up to oppression. They defend their land, their source of livelihood and they are not about to stop.