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{UAH} Apaa: Evidence that demands a verdict – Part II

Apaa: Evidence that demands a verdict – Part II

Norbert Mao

Norbert Mao 

By Norbert Mao

The militarist approach in Apaa did not resolve matters. Tensions continued and they continue today. In this situation leaders cannot keep silent. They should not be blackmailed into silence for fear that they will be misunderstood. We expect our leaders to amplify the agony of the ordinary suffering people instead of grandstanding as the voice of reason as opposed to the rest of us who are now being projected as unreasonable, self-seeking extremists blinded by our hatred of President Museveni.

In my opinion, the only common denominator in Apaa is a high handed state not the so called self-seeking politicians both in Amuru and Adjumani districts. We refer to the Ugandan state because the state has now been captured by individuals greedy for wealth and power. The whole country is on auction. Public assets serve the private interest of powerful individuals.

The greedy and powerful people orchestrating this conflict have succeeded in inciting the people to turn on each other with machetes, spears and arrows instead of standing shoulder to shoulder against a predatory state. Why should Acholi and Madi peasants kill each other yet they both groan under the whip of a common oppressor? Indeed, they are like grasshoppers in a bottle eating up each other instead of focusing on emancipating themselves.

The whole saga is surreal. If both the Madi and the Acholi people face eviction as encroachers on a wildlife reserve, then why would the Madi raid Acholi villagers in Apaa, yet by the action of their local government they willingly gave away the land to Uganda Wildlife Authority? If Apaa is in Adjumani District how come all polling stations there are under Kilak? Indeed I campaigned in Apaa in 2006 while seeking election as District Chairman. The so called new boundary is a fake concoction of people pushing an anti people agenda. It is like putting a square peg in a round hole.

Facing imminent eviction, Apaa residents through their leaders ran to court. They got an injunction stopping the government from evicting them and carrying out any border demarcations. The government ignored the court order and ordered a forceful survey and border demarcation. What do you do when the custodian of the law becomes an outlaw? In this situation of state lawlessness, anarchy was unleashed. Kilak County MP Gilbert Olanya led the residents in disrupting the survey process. The survey was preceded by the deployment of heavily armed police and army personnel. The aim of the deployment was to subdue the residents violently in order for the government to demarcate boundaries between the districts of Amuru and Adjumani. They also claim that they wanted to demarcate the boundary of the contentious East Madi Hunting Area.

We can conclude that this forceful eviction is being driven by a profit motive. It has nothing to do with protection of wildlife. There is very little wildlife in the area. We are also aware that the area had been offered to one Bruce Martin, a foreign investor, to be developed as a private game ranch and hunting area.

Only open and transparent dialogue with the affected communities can resolve this matter. Force and violence by the army and police will only escalate an already volatile situation. For centuries the people of Madi and Acholi have coexisted and lived peacefully and there has never been any dispute over the administrative boundaries of the two districts. A case in point is Bibia Parish which is located in Attiak Sub-county, Amuru District and has a considerable population of ethnic Madi people. The administrative boundaries of Amuru and Adjumani are well known. That is why we believe that this current dispute is being orchestrated by greedy people who have selfish interests.

So what is to be done? First, the outcome of the illegal and unilateral survey and boundary opening at the instance of Adjumani or the central government should be rescinded. The demarcation was done in contempt of a court injunction.

Second, a meeting of the communities that reside in the affected area should be convened so that they become part of the efforts to seek a solution rather than being victimised by decisions and actions imposed from above. Third, mediators should be sought and asked to get involved in facilitating dialogue by the affected communities. Finally, government should act impartially and without any undue delay in order that an amicable solution to this problem be found.

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