Amuru, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Equal Opportunities Commission – EOC has started inquiries into grievances on the contested Apaa land.
Dispute over the 827 Square kilometres of Apaa land started in 2012 when Adjumani district council gazetted the area as East Madi Game Reserve. The move was opposed by Amuru district leaders who likewise claimed rights over the same land.
Protracted conflicts between Acholi and Madi communities characterized by deadly attacks using machetes, bows and arrows, burning of grass thatched houses displacing hundreds of area residents.
Amuru leaders claim at least 18 people have died following clashes over Apaa.
Prof. Sunday Olwor Nicholas, the Commission’s Under Secretary on Tuesday said that they have registered complaints relating to Apaa land that they intend to address through the social justice mechanism. He says that a team of lawyers from the commission have been dispatched to conduct an inquiry.
Prof. Olwor says that after the inquiry, the commission shall consider to structure a tribunal that will adjudicate on the matter through an alternative means of dispute resolution.
The inquiry by the Commission comes barely six months after President Museveni appointed Deputy Speaker of Parliament Jacob Oulanyah to chair a second committee to investigate the Apaa boundary row. But the Committee is yet to start work.
In 2015, the government forcefully installed mark stones on the disputed land to demarcate boundaries amidst protests from Amuru residents. This left more than 20 people injured after police used live bullets to disperse those who opposed the exercise.
In 2017, Tom Butime, the Minister of Local Government declared that indeed Apaa was part of Adjumani. In 2018, an eight-member committee from Acholi and Madi steered by Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda were formed to investigate the matter in vain.
Also, an independent Acholi team chaired by Dr Daniel Komakech, a distinguished Gulu University tutor settled for degazettement of the disputed area for human settlement while the Madi team, on the other hand, settled for the relocation of the residents.
The same year, leaders from both Acholi and Madi failed to agree on President Yoweri Museveni’s proposal to end Apaa land wrangle. Museveni had recommended relocation of Apaa settlers to Acholi area and be supported and compensated by government.
Other options were to allow genuine landowners settle on the land but be restricted from expanding to gazetted areas and be offered a portion of land near Adjumani Town, outside gazetted land.
The Acholi team insisted that genuine landowners be allowed to continue settling in Apaa and called for degazettement of the contested land while their counterparts from Adjumani endorsed a total relocation of the locals, saying the residents had settled in a gazetted wildlife reserve.