UGANDA: GOVERNMENT SHOOTING ITS OWN FOOT ON APAA LAND GRABBING SCHEME

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A journalist, Mr.Emma Okano, conducting interview in Apaa.
“Apaa is the only village in Uganda where you need a visa to access the area and to talk to its people. What kind of injustice is this?”
AMURU-UGANDA:On Friday May 24 2019, a group of fifteen independent media personalities under their umbrella organization, The Northern Uganda Media Club (NUMEC) traveled to the contested village of Apaa, about eighty kilometers west of Gulu City to conduct independent investigations on the plight of residents living there.
There have been reports of deaths, arsons and displacements of people living in Apaa since 2012 by rangers of the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), Uganda Police and Army who claim the area is a game reserve.
In 2017 Uganda Minister of Local Government, Mr. Tom Butime, travelled to the area and declared it belonged to Adjumani district. This declaration did not go down well with the Acholi community including its leadership who have since challenged the decision.
Following the declaration of the boundary, Adjumani district has since erected a roadblock at the new border to prevent political leadership of Acholi to access the people of Apaa who voted for them in the last general election.The Leader of Opposition in parliament, Rt. Hon. Betty AolOcan, was stopped from accessing Apaa in March 2019. She was advised to seek clearance from the Resident District Commissioner of Adjumani district.
The journalists were, however, lucky that they were not stopped at the roadblock from proceeding to Apaa since it was a market day there. The security manning the roadblock thought the journalists were ordinary market vendors travelling on business. They were not lucky though, when they started to do open interview. They were stopped and one of their voice recorders wasconfiscated only to be returned much later when people who had come to the market had left including people from Adjumani.
“Apaa is the only village in Uganda where you need a visa to access the area and to talk to its people. What kind of injustice is this?” One politician in Gulu town said after hearing of the ordeal of the journalists.
Apaa village has all along been part of the greater Acholi district since colonial time. It became part of Gulu district in 1973 when the then president, the late Idi Amin Dada split Acholi into two districts; Gulu to the west and Kitgum to the east. When the current regime of General Yoweri Museveni split Gulu into four districts, it became part of Amuru district.
The status quo changed completely during the over two decade old war which engulfed northern Uganda from 1986-2006. The war forced the entire population in the region into concentration camps where the peasants who used to live in Apaa were herded to Pabbo ‘protected village’, (later renamed Internally Displaced People’s (IDP) camp.
It was at that period in time that neighboring Adjumani passed a resolution to gazette what used to be called East Madi Control hunting ground into East Madi Game Reserve. This resolution was taken to parliament and passed in 2002 without examining the boundary of East Madi Game Reserve that the leadership of Adjumani included Kilak Controlled hunting ground where Apaa is located.Kilak control hunting ground was part of Acholi district.
President Idi Amin had degazzetted the two controlled hunting grounds; Kilak and East Madi controlled hunting grounds in 1973 and people had moved in there and occupied it. The Acholi people moved and occupied former Kilak controlled hunting ground.
It was with this background that one AlenysioObur applied for 100 acres of land in Apaa from government and it was leased to him. He got a land title in 1973. His son, Mr. OdochJokondino, who was born on August 29, 1942 moved there with his father. When his father passed on, Mr. Odoch inherited the 100-acres farm.
He started to develop the farm when people started returning to their former villages from the IDP in 2007 after the end of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) insurgency. A trading center is developing on his land in Apaa. He started to re-stock cattle and had over 40 herds when it was rustled away by game rangers of UWA in 2012 when displacement started.
In 2014, he got his National Identification Card number CM42071100DYGA where it was indicated that Apaa is in Labala Parish, Pabbo sub-county, Kilak County in Amuru district. His voter’s card even says so. He has been voting from this polling station and all his votes were talliedin Amuru district, not Adjumani.
It was only in the 2018 local council I and II elections that the people of Apaa did not elect their leaders after a petition from the leadership of Amuru protesting the ministerial declaration that Apaa is in Adjumani.
The latest committee headed by Deputy Speaker of Parliament Jacob Oulanyah which was instituted by General Yoweri Museveni to resolve the Apaa question once and for all intends to travel to London to collect the colonial map of Uganda which clearly marks district boundaries.
Government is shooting its own foot over the boundary. I saw a copy of this map in 2015 and Apaa is clearly indicated in Acholi, not Madi district.

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