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APG withdraws ultimatum after reaching agreement

AMURU – Acholi Parliamentary Group (APG) has withdrawn the 7-day ultimatum given to the government to find a long-lasting solution to the disputes and violence that has left more than 20 people dead, scores injured and properties worth millions destroyed.

Last week, Acholi Parliamentary Group (APG), an umbrella body that brings together all the members of parliament from Acholi sub-region gave the government up-to Friday this week, to ensure the safety and security of Apaa residents ; investigations on the alleged invaders attacking, killing and destroying people’s properties and have them arrested.

The leaders also demanded that the government gives a clear stand on a long-lasting solution to the area claimed by Amuru, Adjumani and Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) or else they will mobilize the people in Apaa to defend themselves.

In an interview with our reporter on Friday morning, Hon. Anthony Akol, the Chairperson Acholi Parliamentary Group (APG) who also doubles as the Kilak North MP says they have withdrawn the 7-day ultimatum following 5 key resolutions during a meeting with President Museveni. He says they have given the government up to six months as they observe their interventions as far as the land dispute is concerned.

“I have demobilized the people in Apaa following our meeting with President Museveni and I think the directives he made, are reasonable. This time we want a long-lasting solution to this problem. We have lost too many people to this dispute,” said Akol.

In a meeting with President Museveni at State House Nakasero, a delegation of Acholi leaders led by Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny Dollo and attended by other leaders including; Honorable Hillary Onek, Richard Todwong, Beatrice Atim Anywar, Akol Anthony, Martin Ojara Mapenduzi, Judith Achan, and Michael Lakony the LCV Chairperson Amuru district and Gen. Charles Otema Awany agreed with the President’s directive of protection of civilians and boosting of UPDF presence in the area.

In the meeting, Museveni directed Environment Minister, Beatrice Anywar to get a satellite report covering the Eastern part of Zoka forest, from 1984 before the war, to establish earlier human settlement in Apaa areas, and a review of the process of how the area was turned into a conservation area in 2002.

On the question of environmental destructions and the encroachment on Zoka forest, Minister of Environment should immediately evict anyone currently in Zoka forest. The meeting also resolved that the office of the Prime Minister should find a mechanism which will see a peaceful co-existence between the Acholi and Madi ccommunity.

Akol says that the previous commissions set by the President had people from the either side which influenced the decision making which has been one of the reasons why the dispute in the area has not been solved.

Michael Lakony, the Amuru district LCV chairperson says even when the President has directed that security be boosted in the area, there`s still need for the army to be deployed in the area and a military detach investigated for allowing more than 200 people armed with bows and arrows to destroy people’s houses and properties among others. Lakony claims that the people mostly from Adjumani district are released unconditionally.

Demand for a new administrative unit managed by central government.

Lakony says that in the past two months, 7 mothers have died as they try to access a health facility outside Apaa because Apaa Health Center II was closed by the government over the ongoing dispute. He says the future of the children in the area is also miserably unknown because schools in the area have also been closed.

Lakony and Akol says people in the area have been denied their rights to health, education, freedom among others due to this protracted dispute. They urged the government to give an interim administrative unit to Apaa and be managed by the central government with the hope of re-establishing schools and health centers in the area.

Francis Opong, a resident of Apaa says there has been an improvement in security after the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) deployed in the area and started driving the people believed to be coming from Adjumani out of the area. Opong hopes that this time, the directives of Museveni are followed unlike the previous directives he gave in 2018 and were not followed.

In August 2018, when the President visited the contested Apaa land, he made three key directives aimed at solving the land dispute including the proposal that the people of Apaa who at predominantly Acholi be moved to Acholi area and notes that the locals will be compensated, that those already staying in Apaa trading center should remain where they are but not expand into the protected Zoka forest and the government gets another portion of land nearer the populated area of Adjumani because the locals were already residing in Adjumani district but inside Zoka forest.

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