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Rwot David Onen-Acana II of Acholi warns his subjects on land.

[Global: Africa]

Leaders from the Acholi sub-region in Northern Uganda, have challenged Uganda’s President of 30 years, Gen. Yoweri Museveni, to declare his “interests and views” known in writing on Acholi land which has caused conflicts with government officials.

Meanwhile a South African who operates game-hunting tours in Uganda, Bruce Martin, is reported to have now withdrawn his interest on the land, the location of the recent conflict.

“President Yoweri Museveni should come out clear and make his interests and views on Acholi land known in a written form”, reads part of the twenty-point resolution which was reached at by the leaders on Tuesday, September 15th, 2015.

The leaders were deliberating on Apaa land grab saga, in Amuru district, of Tuesday, 7th September 2015 during which incident police and army personnel rounded up and tortured innocent unarmed civilians leaving at least three dead. Scores were injured; two had their right harms amputated when the army fired at the crowd using armored cars. Thirty-eight were arrested and remanded at Gulu Central Government prison.

Police, however deny they killed three people nor that they used live bullets during a disputed demarcation exercise of the border between Amuru and Adjumani districts separating the Acholi and Madi people. The security forces were to provide security to the technical team of surveyors who were doing the actual demarcation, according to the government.

The charged meeting was convened by Acholi Religious Leaders’ Peace Initiative (ARLPI) under its Chairman Arch-Bishop John Baptist Odama. Political, cultural and religious leaders attended.

“If we don’t take this matter of land conflict in Apaa and other areas with similar conflict with keen interest, then other Ugandans will turn around and say that we are the ones bringing problem, conflict over our own land. This is mischief. Why should one whom you host in your home come out to say that you are bringing problem in your own home?” Acholi Paramount Chief, Rwot David Onen-Acana II told participants.

The Acholi sub-region occupies 27,871 square kilometers of total land mass of Uganda, representing 12 percent yet its population is about 1.8 million people, in a country with 38 million people, according to the 2014 National Census report. They have been living in concentration camps in urban centers scattered across the region since mid 1990s, leaving their rural land vulnerable to land grabbers.

During the same period when people were incarcerated in camps, Museveni’s younger brother, Gen. Caleb Akandwanaho,  a.k.a  Salim Saleh, authored two documents: “SALIM SALEH FOUNDATION FOR HUMANITY” & “DININITY UNION”, which targeted at  establishing commercial agriculture in the rich and fertile land left behind by owners as government built for them free homes in the concentrations camps.

The out-going Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) party President, Dr. Olara Orunnu described the Apaa incident as “terror unleashed” on innocent unarmed civilians by the Museveni government.

“There is no local dispute between Acholi and Madi. The dispute is being manufactured by Museveni and his Generals as a trap to divide and rule Acholi and Madi. Don’t fall into that trap,” Otunnu warned.

He visited Apaa on Sunday, September 13th 2015 together with a seven-man delegation of Members of Parliament from the opposition sent by the Leader of Opposition for a fact-finding mission to Apaa to enable them to brief Parliament on the situation the people were in.

Deputy Chief-whip of the opposition, Mr. Ronald Mugume MP from Rukungiri district said it was terrible to see that in the twenty-first Century Ugandans defending their land were treated the way the people of Apaa were. He said land grabbing is a “big problem and disease” in Uganda which must be fought by all.

Since 1986, Acholi has been on the receiving end of violence. Uganda’s current army NRA/UPDF, various local rebels like apocalyptic prophetess Alice Auma Lakwena and heavily armed Karimojong cattle raiders have all raped, looted, killed, displaced over 1.8 million people into concentration camps (IDP) and destroyed properties and making any kind of normal life impossible.

The leaders at the Pabbo meeting also tasked Acholi Paramount Chief and ARLPI to convene another meeting for all Acholi political, cultural, technical people, and religious leaders to deliberate on and come up with a common position on land protection and use in Acholi.

They resolved to hold joint meetings with their counterpart of Madi sub-region with technical people and to harmonize the issue of which map to use for the demarcation of Adjumani and Amuru districts since there are two conflicting versions.

The meeting called for unconditional release of all those arrested and remanded in prison, removal of planted mark stones, withdrawal of police and army from Apaa, de-gazetting/separating East Madi Game Reserve boundary from Amuru land at Apaa and to carry out further research on Apaa land dispute with a view of promoting peaceful co-existence among other resolutions.

The Madi cultural leader, Chief Stephen Drani, told The Black Star News that he welcomes such proposal for holding joint meetings, but declined to comment of the Apaa saga saying he had not been briefed on what happened.

“When they are ready with the proposed meeting, they will call me, but I am still flying out of the country.  My message to the people of Apaa is that we love them.” 

History of Apaa conflict. 

1924-1926: People had already settled at Apaa but there were constant conflicts/fights between Acholi and Madi peoples. The British colonials invited both Acholi and Madi cultural leaders to the administrative headquarters at Nimule for a reconciliation meeting.

They resolved to stop fighting and put their common border at Juka (meaning "to stop") River, which is 18.3 kilometers away from the contested newly put mark stones separating the two districts.

1963: Post-Independent government gazetted Apaa area to KIlak Control hunting ground. People who were living there were asked to leave and they left.

1972: President Idi Amin de-gazetted Kilak Control Hunting ground and former occupants moved there in 1973.

1996/7: People were herded from throughout Acholi land into concentration camps in urban areas as insecurity intensified.

1998: Uganda Wild-Life Authority (UWA) put application before Gulu District Local government for a-ten kilometer animal corridor from River Nile to allow free movement of elephants to Sudan. Gulu rejected the application.

 2002: Parliament gazetted East Madi Game Reserve which covered former Kilak Control Hunting ground and part of Adjumani when the people who lived in former Kilak hunting ground were still in camps.

 2007: People who were displaced in camps began to move back to Apaa as UWA and Adjumani approaches parliament to offer concession to run East Madi Control Hunting area.

2012: People were forcefully evicted from Apaa and dumped at Pabbo township (former camp) saying the land belongs to UWA and that UWA had already leased the area to a South African National, one Bruce Martin to establish sports hunting business.

2015: 7th September, forceful demarcation of border between Amuru and Adjumani effected causing the latest scandal. This is also when a local media house, Mega FM, reported that Mr. Bruce Martin had withdrawn his interest on the said land citing conflicts and poaching    


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