At last 4000 people were made homeless by the Uganda Wild Life Authority (UWA) last Tuesday when they were forcefully evicted from their homes and land.
UWA claims the land in Apaa in Pabbo Sub-County, Amuru district is a game reserve and people are occupying it illegally.
Arriving in pickup trucks, the enforcement officers – some of whom were dressed in Uganda Peoples Defence Force marked army uniforms - shouted “we shall kill you today” as they brought down walls and roofs.
Acholi Times visited the scene and witnessed the destruction caused by the forceful eviction; compounds littered with rubbles of houses; animal and chicken bones, and according to those fleeing the forceful eviction they looted over 200 goats belonging to them.
The Chairman LC 1 for Apaa Mr Okot Jastino urged the residents to remain calm as he would be seeking government response to what had happened.
“This Land belongs to us and no one should go away, just restart rebuilding and be vigilant,” Okot said.
The psychological war continues
Ms Christine Oroma, who lost her husband in 2006 due to the war, said the officers took away shs3million, money that belonged to her women’s group and she told them the money was for her group and not hers, she was beaten instead.
Ms Oroma’s children who go to Apaa Community School stood hapless with tears rolling down their eyes as they heard their mother narrate their ordeal, they don’t go to school since the displacement, their uniforms and books were also destroyed.
Another victim, Mr Moses Onencan said “This land belongs to us. Our ancestors lived here long before us and it is the same land upon which we were forcefully driven by government into squalid life in the camps and it is where we have returned.”
He said that UWA officials ordered people to vacate their properties, so people picked up whatever households they could and fled their houses and those who were slow were severely beaten.
“We had hoped that we were going to get peace, we are not baboons, the security men came from Adjumani and destroyed simsim, cabbage and trees that were in the field. They pocketed eggs too; I do not know how the government looks at people from Acholi,” Onencan said.
“Many children are exposed in the cold and could easily pick malaria and other diseases; as a community we do not have money to sue the perpetrators,” Onencan added.
Mr Onencan’s wife, Santa Achola said when “when I begged and reminded the attackers about their behaviours, I was awarded with a slap to face and punches and kicks to my back.”
Amuru, an oil rich district has covertly been at the centre of demands for land by both the government and private investors due to its natural mineral resources, which has led to litigation by the community affected.
The litigants led by former Kilak County Member of Parliament Michael Ocula insist the land in question is communal and therefore no body has the power to allocate them. There is a similar matter still dragging on in the High Court in Gulu involving the Madhivani group of companies.
“This is more than rebels, rangers wearing UWA caps and UPDF marked uniforms destroyed our homes, caught our chicken and goats, cooked and ate some in our faces,” Mzee Alipayo Olum said.
The rangers could not even spare the family of Mr Odoch Jubidino, who were holding a fresh funeral rite for his grandchild.
“We shed tears and begged for mercy and for our huts not to be destroyed, huts which we were using to accommodate visitors from Adjumani but our pleas fell on deaf ears, to them we not grieving enough,” Jibidino said
Leaders warn of violence.
Wearing wrinkles on his face, a tough talking Pabbo Sub-County Chairman Mr Ojera Christopher warned the enforcers and describing the act as “a crime against Humanity.”
“When I engaged them earlier, nobody seemed to know the boundary, someone should be behind this incident for land grabbing and evicting people under the guise that it is park land, please be ready to die,” Ojera sternly warned.
He called the act a ‘barbaric and uncivilized’ method of land acquisition always sponsored by hungry henchmen in the government.
“Children are sleeping in cold with their mothers while their foods are destroyed; it tells me the peace we fought for is not forth coming. The guns we used with the military generals in this country to fight LRA is being turn on the civilians by government” said Ojera who is also a NRM politician.
He wondered what was the used of voting President Yoweri Museveni if his people were not living in harmony and peace. He added that the matter will be forwarded to the tourism minister for a thorough investigation.
“How do you tell people to go to the IDP camps when forcing them to leave the land they have resettled on for generations? We are going to Court on this matter,” Ojera said.
The newly appointed Water Minister and Woman Member of Parliament for Amuru district Ms Betty Bigombe visited the area and said that she will advocate for the arrest of the UWA commander over the incident.
“This is unnecessary at this moment, why couldn’t they give people more time?” Bigombe asked.
As she concluded her tour of the area, Bigombe pledged to liaise with the office of the prime minister and the United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to supply reliefs to those affected.
Army distances self.
Following reports that the army were also involved, in the raid, the 4th Division Army Civil-Military Relations Officer in Charge of IDPs, Col Francis Achoka Ongom said that the incident was above his office and rank.
“What happened was bad and above my level because it’s political, we will meet UWA boss from Paraa and discuss it in a friendly way,” Col Achoka said on Phone on Thursday.
In July 2010, two people were shot and killed by UWA officials while farming in Apaa village who accused them of being poachers.
The United Nations Humanitarian Agencies have responded by saying that they will not intervene to a politically motivated attack on civilians.
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