Kampala, Tuesday, 8 September, 2015:
The Democratic Alliance (TDA) has learnt with shock and consternation of the deployment of heavily armed police and the military in Apa Parish, Pabbo sub county, Amuru district. The aim of the deployment is to subdue the residents violently in order for the government to demarcate boundaries between the districts of Amuru and Adjumani. They also claim that they want to demarcate the boundary of East Madi Hunting Area.
In 2012 the Uganda Wildlife Authority sent armed Rangers with the backing of police and the army to forcefully evict the residents of Apaa. People were beaten up, their livestock raided, their houses burnt and their crops set on fire. Some young men were shot dead in the operation. Twenty five men were arrested, beaten severely, taken to Adjumani where they were charged with offenses ranging from criminal trespass, being idle and disorderly to threatening violence.
Primary schools were closed down, the pupils and teachers sent away and the school desks were being used as firewood by the army and police. In fact the school became the command post of the army complete with a road block along the road leading to the school.
We are aware that this forceful eviction is being driven by a profit motive. We are also aware that at the instigation of Hon. Moses Ali, the area had been offered by Adjumani district to one Bruce Martin, a foreign investor, to be developed as a private game ranch and hunting area. We feel that since the affected area is not under the exclusive jurisdiction of Adjumani district, it requires cross border collaboration and a joint discussion and a shared decision and consent by the neighboring districts of Amuru and Adjumani.
After the incident where mother of Apa exposed themselves naked be fore the government delegation in protest, government made a commitment that a border meeting would be convened to listen to the concerns of the residents and the leaders.
To our surprise, we were told that three days ago a team comprising the army, police and other government officials were already on the ground and had come in via Adjumani district and were carrying out a survey, boundary opening and were also planting mark stones. This was in total contravention of the spirit of dialogue. Leaders tried to access Apa but roadblocks were set up and they were prevented from speaking to the people.
Three people are now confirmed dead by sources in Apa. Several people suffered grave injuries and are being treated at Amuru health centre. The Member of Parliament Gilbert Olanya was arrested and is believed to be detained in Masindi police station.
We condemn the greed behind this illegal and violent eviction of people trying to settle down after twenty years in concentration camps. We demand that this illegal survey and boundary demarcation he halted immediately.
Only open and transparent dialogue with the affected communities can resolve this matter. Force and violence by the army and police will only escalate an already volatile situation. For centuries the people of Madi and Acholi have coexisted and lived peacefully and there has never been any dispute over the administrative boundaries of the two districts. A case in point is Bibia Parish which is located in Attiak Subcounty, Amuru district and has a considerable population of ethnic Madi people. The administrative boundaries of Amuru and Adjumani are well known. That is why we believe that this current dispute is being orchestrated by greedy people who have selfish interests.
We now propose the following way forward:-
1. Any attempt at a unilateral process of survey and boundary opening at the instance of Adjumani district or the central government should be halted.
2. A high level meeting of government representatives, leaders from the districts of Adjumani and Amuru should be convened by to clarify issues of contention and provide an initial platform for dialogue.
3. A meeting of the communities that reside in the affected area should be convened in order that they become part of the efforts to seek a solution rather than being victimized by decisions and actions imposed from above.
4. Trusted mediators should be sought and asked to get involved in facilitating dialogue by the affected communities. The residents of Apa have for instance proposed that Archbishop John Baptist Odama and retired Bishop Macleod Baker Ochola be asked to mediate in this conflict.
TDA stands in solidarity with the people of Apa. We demand that the media blackout and the isolation of Amuru stops. This brings back memories of Operation North when the entire region was cordoned off as soldiers violated human rights with reckless abandon.
Finally, we know that the NRM regime doesn’t adhere to the rule of law but we wish to state that the matter is before the courts of law and the court has issued an injunction against any further survey and boundary opening.
Government should act impartially and without any undue delay in order that an amicable solution to this problem be found.