Gulu, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Former Aruu County member of Parliament Samuel Odonga Otto has voluntarily handed himself to the Police. Otto walked to the Aswa River Region Police Headquarters in Gulu City Monday morning where police received him.
This comes five days after the Police launched a manhunt for the former lawmaker over allegations of aggravated torture and robbery in the Pader District.
Otto and a group of vigilantes are accused of beating and severely injuring three charcoal businessmen in the Atanga sub-county in the Pader district a week ago on April 30. Speaking to the media earlier, Otto said that he decided to hand himself to the Police since he read from social media that the Police wanted him.
He however denied the allegations against him saying they are trumped up since he wasn’t within the Acholi Sub-region on the date the alleged incidents were reported.
According to Odonga Otto, the level of environmental degradation in the Acholi Sub-region has reached an alarming level with its visible impact on climate change being currently felt in the region.
He however notes that despite their campaign, some police officers in the region are instead promoting the vice by shielding perpetrators of illegal charcoal trade by escorting them after receiving bribes.
Last week, three people lodged complaints of torture and robbery at Atanga Police Station against the former lawmaker and unknown vigilantes still on the run.
Police identified the victims of the alleged attack as Charles Ssemanda, Yusuf Wagwana, and Takafa Erisata who sustained severe body injuries.
Aswa River Region Police Spokesperson David Ongom Mudong told the press Monday that it wasn’t yet clear whether Otto will record a statement or only have a meeting with the Regional Police Commander Damali Nachuha.
Mudong however says Otto has among other cases to answer including inciting locals to loot charcoal from a truck in Pader District.
He denied allegations that the police are involved in escorting trucks of charcoal out of the region despite the ban issued by the Environment Ministry.
Police Spokesperson Fred Enanga last week noted in a statement that the suspects are also accused of robbing 1.1 Million shillings from one of the victims before vandalizing a Fuso Truck registration UBA 600B. Videos of the victims who appeared to have been held hostage and paraded in a compound during a downpour while on their knees and others lying on the ground undergoing interrogation by unknown people went viral last week. It received a fair share of condemnation on social media for the inhumane ways the businessmen were treated.
Otto launched a controversial approach to implement the charcoal ban in the region in February using local vigilantes under Ribbe Pi Paco (RPP), an environmental youth advocacy and activism group. The group stormed several charcoal hotspots in the region where they destroyed logs and charcoal and also intercepted trucks loaded with charcoal on the major highways.
The Environment Ministry in February this year banned all districts in Acholi Sub-region from issuing documents facilitating the commercial production and trade and transportation of charcoal following an outcry on the alarming environmental degradation.