Uganda Land Grab: Women Protestors, Facing Armed Soldiers, Unleash Secret Weapon -- Nudity

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Gen. Nyakairima -- military strategy neutralized by nakedness

[Resisting Land Grab]

Faced with armed soldiers they believe want to evict them from their land on directions from the Uganda government of President Yoweri Museveni, elderly women in part of Acholi region tore off their clothes in front of government ministers who quickly left the scene and ordered the troops to withdraw.

In an earlier stand-off before the arrival of government ministers soldiers had assaulted and injured 82 people protesting what they fear is a land-grab scheme for foreign investors by the government.

The ministers came on April 16: Gen. Aronda Nyakairima, the former commander of Uganda's army and now Minister of Internal Affairs; and Daudi Migereka, Minister of Lands. The government had sent surveyors, it says, to demarcate the boundaries between Amuru District and Adjumani District.

On the day the ministers came, accompanied by soldiers and other officials, the women of Apaa Amuru District mounted an unusual protest: fearing the government wants to sell off their land, many started wailing loudly, as if they were at a funeral, while others stunned the government officials by stripping naked.

The people base their fear on history.

In 2012, soldiers, police and Uganda Wildlife Authority guards evicted 6,000 people from land in Apaa. It was later revealed that the land had been sold to a South African investor who wanted to turn it into wild life hunting grounds.

So when the people of Apaa Amuru District learned that another team had been sent to survey land, the protests started, resulting in the injury from soldiers to 82 demonstrators, before the arrival of the ministers.

Officials believed that Gen. Nyakairima and Minister Migereko, would be able to diffuse the tensions. Little did they know that the women had a secret weapon.

Later, Migereko pleaded with people not to fear the surveyors and said no one would be displaced from their land.

Gen. Nyakairima said: "If we don't resolve it we may choose to go to the president, until we have a solution. And we will have a solution. There is no way; we have to have a solution."

He ordered soldiers to release some demonstrators who had been arrested.

Later, spokesperson for the Uganda People's Defense Force (UPDF) 4th Division, Olweny Ceaser, also tried to calm the demonstrators: “UPDF soldiers and Uganda Police Forces have come in to protect people. Yesterday Minister on Land Mineral Daudi Migereko and Internal Affairs Minister Gen Aronda Nyakairima in the meeting in Apaa resolved that people should go back to their land for cultivation."

As I talks, we have withdrawn form Apaa, we don’t have ill intention, we did not have it, it make our position very clear why UPDF soldiers was there,” Olweny said.

He appealed to women, out of respect for Acholi culture and their children who were also there when they exposed themselves, to refrain from such displays. “I have never heard that when Acholi are angry they have to show their nakedness in public,” he said.

Okello William, an elder from Purnaga Clan said people know the government had sinister movives: “Government insistent on demarcating what is clearly Acholiland into East Madi is a clear indication that it is bent on disempowering Acholi and confirm to theories that have long been that for any government to hold on to power, it has to dis-empower Acholi.”

He said the resilience of the people is quite admirable and hoped that all parts of Acholi could copy from Apaa, as other districts also fear land-grab. Okello said the Acholi women's protest will send a signal to the rest of Ugandan that with sheer determination, people have the power to defeat a dictator.

He said in addition to Martin Bruce, the Madhvani inCompany was also targeting land in Amuru District for sugar factories.

Olanya Gilbert, the Member Of Parliament for Kilak County in Amuru District has been a fearless defender of Apaa land. He said the Ministry of Lands and Mineral want to use the border demarcation issue as a ruse to grab Acholi land.

Odonga Otto, the Member of Parliament for Aruu in Pader District, said the women's  April 16 protest marked a political victory against President Yoweri Museveni's quest for land grabbing. “This is a lesson to teach Museveni that war is looming, should he carry on his master plan to annihilate Acholi community,” he said.


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