Uganda: Regime Involved in Land-grab Ethnic Cleansing Evidence Gathered By Dep. Parliament Speaker Shows

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Deputy Speaker, Jacob Oulanyah (in white striped shirt) enjoying lunch at Apaa with local residents

 

AMURU, Uganda--A visit by Uganda's Deputy Speaker of Parliament revealed more evidence that the ethnic cleansing campaign for land-grabbing in the northern part of Uganda is being fueled by the regime of dictator Yoweri Museveni who has been in power for 33 years.

The government has promoted fighting between the Acholi and Madi people near the disputed Apaa Township. Gen. Museveni intends to forcefully grab 319 square miles of land from the Acholi.

The Madi and Acholi have co-existed and intermarried for centuries without any tension. Residents say the conflict is being engineered by the Museveni regime. The dictator has a well-documented track record of fomenting ethnic conflicts for political goals. When Museveni's army invaded Rwanda on October 1, 1990, the war increased ethnic tension between Hutus and Tutsis. Four years later, the conflict erupted in genocidal killings. Acholis and Madis fear the dictator wants to sow similar discord in this region.

Some Madi are so fearful of escalation in violence that they now want the dictator to build a wall separating the two communities. Dozens of people have died in the fighting over the years. The Uganda army and park rangers have also joined in deadly attacks against Acholis; civilians have been killed, injured, and their homes have been torched. Gen. Museveni has harbored hatred against Acholis since coming to power in 1986. One of his past commaders, Kajabago Karushoke, said Acholis were "not human beings; they are biological substances."

On Thursday, deputy speaker of Uganda's Parliament Jacob Oulanyah visited Juka (Zoka) Village the epicenter of the new conflict located about 6 miles north of the first epicenter of the 17-year old bloody land conflict in Apaa Township. He arrived in the area at about noon and interviewed members of both sides in the conflict. The Madi told Oulanyah they want heavy military deployment of government troops, the Uganda People's Defense Force (UPDF) carried out in the area to keep the Acholi from mixing with them. They said the border should be converted into their highway to prevent the Acholi people from stepping foot on their land. They are part of a new group of migrants trying to force out members of the Acholi people from the area. Encouraged by the Museveni regime, they have excavated graves and exhumed bodies of loved ones and ancestors of the Acholi from the area in addition to destroying homes and livelihoods.  

Igama Francis, one of the residents told Oulanyah that they are forcing the Acholi people out of the area since the Museveni regime officially gave the land over to them in a controversial declaration done by Local Government Minister Tom Butime in 2016. They said the declaration means Adjumani district belongs to only original Madi inhabitants. Others said their ancestors settled in the area in 1930s.

This government-promoted ethnic cleansing campaign has created a charged and toxic environment between Madis and Acholis. Originally Museveni planned to lease the land to a South African investor named Bruce Martin who wanted to create a safari ranch for game hunting after displacing Acholis. The investor has since reportedly withdrawn his interest possibly concerned by the potential for widespread fighting. Oulanyah later heard that Igama forcefully constructed his house in the homestead of Ojera Christopher, an Acholi, who was chased out of the area. Ojera’s homestead was burnt down in January this year. Igama said he had nothing to do with the destruction of Ojera’s homestead saying his main concern is to resettle in his grandfather’s land. He claimed that he was alone because his children had gone to school, and wives were out looking for food stuff. 

Igama offered three solutions to the conflict at Zoka: first, Acholis should be resettle elsewhere, either in Amuru or Gulu districts; secondly, a road should be constructed separating Madis and Acholis along the lines of the new land granted to Madis by Museveni and soldiers should be deployed to enforce the separation; and, the people of Apaa are to compensated.

The levels of poverty are appalling. In Museveni's area, Rwakitura, new buildings are rising up. Here, Oulanyah found members of the Lugbara from Arua district and Madi from Moyo district constructing makeshift buildings. 

In the next neighborhood, Oulanyah and Brigadier Bonny Bamwiseki the 4th UPDF Division Commander found a young man who said he'd been in Zoka village for three weeks. He said he and other youth were hired by leaders from Adjumani district to displace and take over land belonging to the Acholi people and to build homes in area. 

This is clear evidence of regime-financed ethnic cleansing.

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