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Gov’t faulted for not resolving Apaa land conflict

Apaa land conflict has dragged on for years. File Photo

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Members of Parliament have accused the government of failing to resolve the prolonged disputes over the control and ownership of Apaa land.

Several failed attempts by the government to harmoniously end the decade-long conflict have interrupted the livelihoods of the inhabitants who have suffered burning of their settlements, persistent insecurity, human rights violations, theft of livestock and interrupted social services in health facilities and school.

Since 2012, deadly ethnic clashes between the Acholi and their neighboring Madi Community over Apaa land have resulted in the death of over 20 people, several forced disappearances, injuries, and displacement of families.

Last month, Apaa residents again experienced the latest renewed attacks in which four people were killed and scores injured. The attack prompted Anthony Akol, the Kilak North County MP to table the matter on the floor of Parliament at the beginning of the month.

The Minister of State for Internal Affairs, Gen. David Muhoozi made a statement in the House revealing that a joint report conducted in August by the security agencies implicated the Acholi and Madi political leaders for fueling continued tribal clashes in Apaa.

According to the report, varying perceptions by the Acholi and Madi ethnic communities, increased agitation and economic importance being attached to the contested area and the boundary demarcation by government have compounded the Apaa unrest.

Sarah Opendi, the Tororo District Woman Representative says Apaa land question has unnecessarily dragged on. Opendi once visited Apaa in 2012 and tried to handle it as then State Minister for Lands, Housing and Urban Development.

The Deputy Speaker of Parliament Anita Annet Among called on the Cabinet to pronounce itself on Apaa land conflict. Among also directed a relevant committee of Parliament to visit Apaa to undertake fact-finding although she did not specify the time frame.

Martin Ojara Mapenduzi, the Bardegi-Layibi Division MP in Gulu City observed that government has never been committed in ending the Apaa land wrangle. He said that Among’s directive remains the last hope for Acholi leaders and the affected community.

The 40 square kilometers of the contested Apaa land is being claimed by Adjumani District in West Nile and Amuru in Northern Uganda as well as the Uganda Wildlife Authority-UWA, as part of the East Madi Game Reserve.

In 2018, President Yoweri Museveni directed the then Prime Minister Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda to lead a government team to investigate the tensions but to date, the committee’s findings have never been published despite continued deadly clashes.

Last year, the former Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga sent two Select Committees of Parliament to investigate the Apaa land dispute but the tribal clashes have persisted. By end of 2019, again the President replaced Dr Rugunda and appointed then Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah to probe the conflict.

However, just like the Rugunda Committee, the Oulanyah-led team investigated the matter but its findings have never been shared prompting the Acholi leaders to threaten to walk to Parliament with the aggrieved Apaa community to protest persistent deadly attacks.

The threat compelled the President to summon Acholi leaders at State House on 7 August 2021. During the meeting, Museveni directed security deployment in Apaa to prevent killings, and also pledged to institute a judicial commission inquiry on Apaa but to no avail.

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