UGANDA: ESCAPING FROM THE HANDS OF UGANDA SECURITY BY WISHKER IN APAA LAND GRAB SAGA, A UNIVERSITY STUDENT RECALLS HOW HE LOST RIGHT HAND.

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Felix Opiyo-Tariya: Museveni’s dogs of war would have killed him if he didn’t run fast.

AMURU-UGANDA: It is seven o’clock local time in the evening, as the ambulance carrying Mr. Felix Opiyo-Tariya, a twenty-six year- old of Gulu University student pulls up at the Emergency Unit of St. Mary’s Hospital-Lacor which is located six kilometers west of Gulu town in Northern Uganda.

“Blood was still flowing from my injured right hand and I was feeling extremely cold. One woman who had come to check if her relatives were also injured from Apaa land conflict saw me shivering with cold, decided to cover me up with her wrapper. That was all I could remember when we arrived at Lacor hospital. I don’t remember what the doctors did to my hand from the Operating Theatre. The next thing I remember was that I was now in the Recovery Room and that my injured hand was now wrapped up in bandage”. These were the words of Felix, during an interview with the Black Star at the Northern Uganda Media Club (NUMEC) office in Gulu town recently.

Felix says his biggest new challenges include; how to bathe, dress up, work, wash his clothes, eat, write using left hand or how to get tuition fees for his daughter, siblings and fees to complete his Bachelor Degree in Business Administration . “Sometimes I call my neighbor to help bathe me, wash my clothes or even dress me up. I am learning to eat and write using the left hand. I am learning to eat like a child. It is better when I am using spoon or fork”, Felix says.

What happened in Apaa villages and Pabbo sub-county in Amuru district on 7th September 2015 that victims of atrocities like Felix will not forget about unwarranted and un-provoked attack on un-armed civilians by the Uganda Police Force (UPF) and Uganda Peoples’ Defence Force (UPDF)?

On this fateful Tuesday afternoon, dictator General Museveni unleashed his terror dogs on un-armed civilians of Apaa village in Amuru district who had gathered at Apaa market and killed three people, scores were injured, thirty-eight arrested and ten are still missing. Felix and Jacob Okumu had their right hands amputated as a result of the injuries they sustained in the fiasco.  

The crime Felix, Jacob and people of Apaa committed was to respond to an announcement which ran on a local MEGA FM radio station by a top General on the UPDF, Maj. Gen. Julius Oketta (himself a son of the soil) inviting all residents of Apaa, which comprises of three administrative villages, for a night time bonfire meeting popularly known as “WANG OO”.

On this fateful day people like Felix and Jacob streamed to the venue of the meeting early in the morning to hear what message General Oketta was coming to deliberate with the people of Apaa.

“Major General Julius Oketta called for Wang OO bonfire meeting at Apaa Trading Center. When I heard the announcement over radio MEGA FM, I went for the meeting since I was at the village. Because the villages are large, some peo0ple took three days to reach Apaa Trading Centre”, recounts Felix.

When it was approaching mid day, people who had gathered at Apaa market waiting for their son, Maj. Gen. Julius Oketta, started hearing rumors that some soldiers were moving to Apaa Trading Center from neighboring Adjumani district, that these soldiers were arresting all the people who were coming for the meeting .

People thought these were the front runners of the convoy escorting Oketta. They were wrong. When the convoy of military and Police vehicles reached Apaa Primary School, about two hundred meters away from the venue of the meeting, elders in the meeting venue advised and requested people to welcome General Oketta by singing for him a wecome song as they hold and wave the “OLWEDO” tree (symbolizing and signifying peace time in Acholi culture) branches.

“What I saw and witnessed by one-thirty to two o’clock in the afternoon was a convoy of military and police vehicles entering the meeting venue. I counted five Armored Personnel Carriers-APC (popularly called as MAMBA), leading the way. Other military and police vehicles were following carrying men and women who were all armed and were putting on police uniforms” Felix recalls.

Felix says he saw the chairman of Pabbo sub-county Local Council three (LC III), Mr. Christopher Ojera (now a Parliamentary aspirant) standing on top of one of the APC battlefield vehicle. “Someone must have given the security personnel orders to start beating us up. All of a sudden, they started to beat people up using sticks. People started to run for their dear lives in disarray. When they saw people running away, they drove the mambas into the running crowd. Other security personnel began to shoot live bullets, throw hand grenades, tears gas and other types of bombs which displayed green, pink and blue colors”, says Felix.

Felix recalls that one of the bombs bust in his face blinding him momentarily while another bomb burst on his right leg as he was running, trying to escape for safety.

“As I was still running one of them shot at me from the back and the bomb landed on my back-pack bag which was containing my laptop computer, a camera, a pair of shoe and my clothe. The bag caught fire immediately”, recalls Felix.

“As I was trying to remove the burning bag from my back to enable me run faster, one of the mambas shot at me. The bomb landed on the joint separating my right hand from the harm. I felt cold running through my spine. When I look at my hand, it was shattered completely. I could see only small veins hanging loose from where blood was flowing freely. I was left without my right hand”, says Felix.

Felix recalls that the security personnel saw that he (Felix) was badly injured, they wanted to kill him there and then. “They trailed me for three kilometers by following the direction of the dripping blood from my hand”.

One Francis Oballim-Onen, with whom he was running away from the soldiers/police, found an abandoned motorcycle and used it to rush with injured Felix to Pabbo Health Center III- Lacor branch.

“When we reached the Health Center, the officer in charge called the Lacor main hospital and ambulance arrived to pick me up within thirty minutes.”    

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