UGANDA: ACHOLI CALL FOR INTERNATIONAL ACTION AGAINST PERPETRATORS OF HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS

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Retired Judge, Galdino Okello, reading the Acholi communiqué

“We the people of Acholi sub-region assembled at Ker Kwaro Acholi on May 27, 2018 condemn in the strongest terms possible the continued violations of Human Rights on the people of Apaa, Amuru district which is being perpetrated by state security agents”

“We state that the continued eviction of the Acholi people from their land in Apaa and destruction of lives and property is unacceptable. We are conscious that our human rights are inherent and not granted by the State and that the same is protected by both national and international law”

“If the people of Acholi cannot unite to protect their land, then they will become ‘extinct like indigenous Americans in the twenty-first century”

GULU-UGANDA: The people of Acholi have called for International actions against Uganda security forces which are accused of killing at least 14 innocent civilians in attacks while evicting people from their ancestral homes in Apaa village, Amuru district. Two people are missing and 4, 684 households have been displaced after Gen. Yoweri Museveni's security agents burned down at least 519 grass thatched huts, with household items reduced to ashes. The regime is believed to be interested in leasing off the land to foreign investors.

The disputed 826 square kilometers piece of land is home to at least 26,686 people --mostly Acholi peasant farmers-- but is being claimed, at the instigation of the regime, by neighboring Adjumani district that it is part of East Madi Game Reserve under the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA).

In a fully charged meeting on Sunday, May 27, 2018, held at Acholi Kingdom headquarters in Gulu, the people resolved to call for the "attention of the international community to be drawn to the gross violations of human rights happening in Apaa to enable appropriate international law mechanisms to be actioned against perpetrators".

“We the people of Acholi sub-region assembled at Ker Kwaro Acholi on May 27, 2018 condemn in the strongest terms possible the continued violations of Human Rights on the people of Apaa, Amuru district which is being perpetrated by state security agents.”, the preamble to the two-page communiqué reads in parts.

According to Mr. John Oryem-Akidi, the Rwot Kweri, the smallest administrative unit of peasants, the affected people, now homeless, are enduring heavy rain and cold night as all their houses are burnt to ashes.

“We appeal to the International community to come to our rescue as soon as possible. We need shelter, food, medicine and utensils now as we sleep in the open. It is worst when it is raining, this being rainy season”, says Oryem on phone from Apaa on Monday evening.

The people refuted claims by the regime that the current conflict which has resulted in people being evicted from their land, is "ethnic" based violence since he people from their land since the two neighbors, Acholi and Madi, "have lived together harmoniously since time immemorial".

“We state that the continued eviction of the Acholi people from their land in Apaa and destruction of lives and property is unacceptable. We are conscious that our human rights are inherent and not granted by the State and that the same is protected by both national and international law”, the communiqué reads.

The people demanded that the "Government of Uganda stops forthwith these wanton and inhumane attacks by state security agents and the immediate withdrawal of Uganda Peoples’ Defence Forces (UPDF), the Police and Game Rangers from Apaa". 

They also demanded that "the President of the Republic of Uganda to come and address the people of  Acholi and give assurance of the Government’s commitment to resolve this matter peacefully taking into consideration the rights of the people of Apaa".

They say "the Government should respect the court order stopping further eviction issued on February 15, 2012 by the Gulu High Court, and that Government officials who have violated the court order must be held for Contempt of Court".

The people tasked Acholi traditional leaders to "lead efforts to protect Acholi land" and that "legal efforts must be put in place to enforce and protect the rights of the people of Apaa and Acholi solidified and a team of competent lawyers to be assembled to litigate this matter in the interest of the Acholi people".

The people also demanded that Government must put in place "an effective compensation scheme to compensate the people of Apaa who have lost lives and properties" and that the "next meeting concerning the Apaa matter be held at Apaa in solidarity with the people of Apaa".

This communiqué was signed by Acholi Cultural leader, Rwot David Onen-Acana II, the chairperson of Acholi religious leaders, Archbishop Dr. John Baptists Odama, Wang OO chairperson, Mr. John Livingstone Okello Okello and Secretary of Acholi parliamentarians, Mr. Gilbert Olanya.

“If the people of Acholi cannot unite to protect their land, then they will become extinct like indigenous Americans in the twenty-first century”, says Mr. Okello Okello.

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