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ANALYSIS: Land killings in Apaa

A victim of the recent attacks in hospital

Forced demarcation has put an end to the peaceful coexistence between the Acholi and the Madi

Kampala, Uganda | RONALD MUSOKE |  On June 7, the nation was shocked again when the on-and-off Apaa land conflict in the northern district of Amuru escalated into violence, this time leaving eight people dead.

Shocking images on television showed the injured at St. Mary’s Hospital, Lacor in Gulu with deep wounds, dangling limbs while others had arrows still lodged in their backs after escaping the ordeal.

Members of the Madi community in Adjumani District apparently encircled and stormed villages in neighbouring Apaa and began burning huts, cutting victims with pangas and axes, spearing and shooting others with bows and arrows.

The Independent has spoken to some local leaders in Acholi and they say 11 people are still missing while close to 30 people are in hospitals nursing gruesome injuries.

This is not the first time this conflict has ended with a grotesque display of rage. In April 2015, the nation was stunned when elderly women in Apaa Parish, undressed before Daudi Migereko, the then Lands Minister, and the late Gen. Aronda Nyakairima, the former Internal Affairs Minister, protesting the government’s forced demarcation of the boundary between Amuru and Adjumani districts.

That nude protest led to the cancellation of the demarcation exercise on the 40 sq km land as the ministers and survey team and security personnel ended the exercise prematurely in embarrassment.

But the government returned months later under the protection of the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) and the Police to demarcate the boundary and erect mark stones, handing over the disputed land to Adjumani District Local Government.

Residents say they were surprised when the government begun extending Adjumani District beyond River Zoka, which has been widely known as the physical boundary mark between Adjumani and Amuru since the colonial days.

The Acholi community viewed that exercise with suspicion. The Acholi also accuse Parliament of gazetting the area and turning it into a nature reserve in 2002 without consulting local residents. They also accuse Adjumani District local government of acting beyond its jurisdiction to offer the said land to government for establishment of the nature reserve.

In 2005, the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) met stiff resistance from residents who had since moved back into the area from Paboo Internally Displaced People’s camp when it moved to implement the establishment of the nature reserve.

The forced demarcation two years ago put an end to the peaceful coexistence between the Acholi and the Madi communities and marked the beginning of the on-and-off violent skirmishes between the Madi and Acholi communities.

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