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APG Gives the Government A 7-day Ultimatum

ACHOLI – Acholi Parliamentary Group (APG), an umbrella body of all Members of Parliament from Acholi sub-region have given a one-week ultimatum to the government to investigate and arrest invaders who are brutalizing and destroying houses of locals in the contested Apaa area.

The invaders, more than 200 people believed to be hailing from Itirikwa sub-county in Adjumani district, have in the past three weeks invaded the villages of Oyanga and Acholi Ber villages erecting makeshift structures, attacking and destroying the houses of the people who live in the area.

The group in their attempted eviction of the people, mostly attacked the Acholi community and injured a 21-year-old man identified as Denis Akera from Oyanga village.

Addressing the press over the weekend, Hon. Anthony Akol, the Chairperson Acholi Parliamentary Group (APG), says that the one-week ultimatum comes after a seemingly low interest by the government to solve the Apaa land dispute.

Akol claims that last week, Police released 29 suspects who were picked up in an operation in the contested area but were released under unclear circumstances.

Akol, also the Kilak North MP says that despite the government’s strong and strict intelligence and security network, people armed with bows and arrows, pangas among others still move in large numbers, invade and attack people from their own homes attempting to chase them away.

According to Akol, they are disappointed with how the government is handling the situation in Apaa even after the committee instituted by President Museveni two years ago to investigate and find a lasting solution to the matter submitted their report and nothing has yet been done.

Akol says that with what has been transpiring since 2016 from the violent clashes that continued to June 2017 where 14 people were killed and 20 injured, no one has been arrested and brought to justice.

Martin Ojara Mapenduzi, the Bar-dege Layibi Division MP says that if within the one-week ultimatum the government doesn’t drive back the invaders out of Apaa and a clear plan for a lasting solution to the dispute that has claimed lives of more than 20 people, they are going to mobilize the people to defend themselves since the government can’t do so.

“And so, if within the one-week ultimatum, the government doesn’t respond, we will conclude that the government doesn’t care about the people of Apaa and we sit and see what to do” says Mapenduzi.

Mapenduzi blames individuals from within the Madi community who are trying to take advantage of the situation to grab land. There are some individuals in Adjumani district who are taking advantage of the ongoing disputes to grab land.

According to Mapenduzi, since 2012 when the first violent clashes erupted in Apaa, no one has been arrested and jailed and yet people continue to lose lives, properties and sustain injuries.

Besides the demand for investigations, Mapenduzi says Acholi Parliamentary Group wants the rights of the people in Apaa respected, protected and observed.

“For how long must people suffer for the government to understand that enough is enough, how many people have to lose their lives for the government to realize that it’s actually beyond? This is unacceptable and so, we expect the government in the next one week to take action and bring the culprits to book but also the people of Apaa deserve protection, and if the government cannot protect them, they will have to protect themselves. We don’t in anyway support violence and lawlessness and that’s why since 2012, we have been pleading for our people to be protected by the state because it’s their responsibility and so we are giving one week to see whether the state cares”

On Wednesday last week, Anita Among, the Deputy Speaker of Parliament directed that security in Apaa be boosted, the invaders driven out of the contested area.

Francis Opong, a resident of Oyanga sub-village in Apaa says in the past four days, a number of more than 50 Madi language speaking people have continued to invade the area and erect makeshift structures next to the homes of the Acholi community.

Roselyn Aciro, a resident of the same area says that they have lost confidence in how the government is handling the dispute. She says they have lost lives, properties worth millions to their attackers from people from Adjumani.

What next?

There have been a number of legal attempts to end the dispute in the contested area measuring 320 square miles home to over 13,000 people which is claimed by Uganda Wildlife Authorities’ East Madi Wildlife reserve.

In 2012, the high court in Gulu gave an injunction halting security, local government and Adjumani district from any other interferences in the contested area. But the leaders in Acholi sub-region say that court ruling is not being respected and followed.

Akol, says that they are considering filing a case of contempt of court in the Gulu based high court since interferences by security, and Adjumani district local government have continued.

According to Akol, invasions, attacks, and security brutality has continued in the area with more than 20 people losing their lives. One of the most recent one was of one, Labista Opio, a driver of Canter truck registration number UAU 932G who stages and resides at Lacor center in Gulu City who was shot dead by a UWA ranger some meters away from the security checkpoint in Apaa for allegedly carrying unspecified sacks of charcoal from Apaa market headed for Gulu City.

“What we have decided to do is to file an application so that we handle Adjumani district and the Ministry of Local Government for contempt of court because a court injunction has been given that you should never interfere with the lives of the people in the area until that issue is sorted out in court and there has been no ruling, therefore what they are doing there is in contempt of court” says Akol.

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