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  • Rebecca Nairuba

The Anti-land Grabbing Music Caravan

Art; to include music, poetry and drama has been embraced in activism due to its ability to engage audiences and appeal to their emotions. Because of its inclusive nature to reach a wide audience, music has been exploited by activists to spark conversations about social issues in a variety of audiences. We have discovered that after training on nonviolent resistance to effect social change, community members have become less apathetic and more interested in changing their societies for the better. Music is one of the strategies that we believe communities should exploit to advance social change and fight against social injustices. The communities we work with have composed songs that highlight social and political injustices, to encourage more people to participate in social change initiatives and through this they have successfully brought down several perpetrators of injustices.

Women within the National Land Defense League (NLDL) movement have turned to music as one of the nonviolent strategies to draw attention to challenges and social injustices within their societies. NLDL is a farmer-led movement against impunity, injustice, and corruption in Land Governance and Management. It brings together grassroots communities affected by land injustices who use non-violent strategies, and civil resistance in their efforts to wage against land injustices in their communities.

Music has been used as a movement mobilizing strategy for women bringing together people to advocate for social change through education, and building solidarity for more confident communities.

We organized a music caravan in three communities of Logiri, Opit in Omoro, and Lungulu in Nwoya where women sang songs, performed poetry, and played drama to sensitize their community members and leaders on the land injustices happening around them and the need for them to take action. The women explained the power of music in fighting against their land grabbers.

Logiri women in Arua sang songs, performed a drama about their encounters with National Forestry Authority officials who are threatening to evict community members in the cultural farmland land outside the borders of Okavurera forest. The women highlighted the importance of land to their identity and welfare as family caretakers. They also emphasized the importance of maintaining the discipline of nonviolence in their approach to recovering their land. These women are currently cultivating their land which was recovered because of their successful actions. They intend to use these songs to support and mentor women in the neighboring villages through joint actions.

"Music has enabled us to mobilize more women to join the struggle and boost our morale during direct actions like demonstrations and the anti-land-grabbing bicycle caravan that we have organized in the past," Mildred from Lazebu Women Against Land Grabbing from Logiri Parish.

The Lungulu women sang heartfelt songs about four brothers in Nwoya who have destroyed their plantations for a year and consistently intimidated the community members into giving up on their land. They narrated a story of the first land mediation that was conducted by the Kekwaro of Acholi which resulted in the return of their land. However, the land grabbers have disregarded the resolution. The mothers also cried as they expressed their sorrow in a song about their sons and husbands who have been in jail for more than a year for taking part in a nonviolent protest demanding their cultural land. The neighborhood residents joined in and pledged to back the women's demands for the release of the 11 detained members of the community.

“We hope to use these songs in future actions since they enable us to speak honestly and confidently about our land and it draws other people’s attention to our problem,” said one of the women.

In Opit, the women performed songs that highlighted the value of their cultural land to them, demonstrating how it gives them food and income, allowing them to care for their families’ needs. They identified a perpetrator, Fred Kajura, who was accompanied by security guards, and attacked farmers on their community farmland to drive them off the land while claiming to have purchased it without disclosing the seller. Their songs emphasized the significance of speaking out against land grabs because powerful people like politicians, pseudo developers, need to be stopped from exploiting the poor. The community finally joined them in a song that celebrates the love for their land and the need to protect it from land grabbers highlighting that their land is their identity.

Recently, activists have tapped into the creative power of art to emotionally engage audiences by drawing people’s attention to social and political injustices in their communities in the hopes that people will become less apathetic and steer conversations towards finding solutions to these problems.

More power to the women!

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