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Minister Hillary Onek sues Acholi MPs for defamation

Hillary Onek

Kampala, Uganda |  THE INDEPENDENT |  The Minister for Disaster Preparedness and Refugees Eng Hillary Onek has sued MPs Odonga Otto Gilbert Olanya and Okin Ojara for alleged defamation.   

In a suit filed before the Civil Division of High Court in Kampala, Eng Onek stated that Odonga Otto labelled him a non-Ugandan, masquerading as an Acholi.  Odonga Otto reportedly asked the Minister to trace his roots in South Sudan. The statements were reportedly made during a talk show on which Otto was hosted on June 17, 2020. 

During the broadcast, Otto stated that he knows the Minister’s brother who serves as a Permanent Secretary in Juba and a sister who also serves as a Member of Parliament in South Sudan. He added that because of his roots, the Minister was adamant to the plight of the Acholi people who have continually lived under suppression, insecurity and land grabbing. But according to Onek, the statements were injurious to his, person, his office, reputation, esteem and dignity.

The minister also accuses Otto of forging a document indicating that they had been barred from visiting  Lamwo, an area represented by Onek in Parliament.  Otto reportedly presented the letter dated February 12, 2020, to Clerk to Parliament indicating that if any of them had visited Lamwo, they would never be seen again.

They alleged that Onek had authorized his assistant Thomas Oketayot to hire youths from a bar to beat up Otto, Ojara, Olanya and the Leader of Opposition Betty Aol Ochan if they ever went to Lamwo.  MPs Ojara and Olanya who were also co-guests on the same radio talk show reportedly seconded Otto’s false statements.

It is alleged that the trio subsequently made a defamatory report dubbed “Fact-Finding visit to Lamwo on Status of the Out growers /Land Rights in the Horyal Investment Limited, Sugar Cane Project,”

which reportedly implicated the minister in a several land grabbing scandals.  The minister says that the report was shared with several WhatsApp groups.

Onek states that the said statements were meant to alienate him from his people and buttress other allegations that he is an oppressive land grabber.  He adds that he was not aware of any land wrangles that the Leader of Opposition wanted to address in Lamwo and neither did his letter to the Clerk to Parliament intimidate anyone.

He wants the three legislators to issue an apology and compensate him with 400 million Shillings for the inconveniences caused to him. The Deputy Registrar of the Civil Division of High Court Sarah Langa has issued summons to Otto, Olanya and Ojara to file their defence in this matter within 15 days.

But MP Ojara, one of the respondents told URN that the suit is very unfortunate because the Acholi people have alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, and can solve this without going to court. 

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