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{UAH} Don’t tribalise Apaa land, it will cause more conflict

Don't tribalise Apaa land, it will cause more conflict


By Moses Odokonyero

I come from Atiak, a sleepy trading centre on the Gulu- Nimule road. The trading centre was somewhat jolted to life from its slumber about the time South Sudan got independence and the Gulu- Nimule road rumbled to life. 
The road quickly became a strategic route earning Uganda top foreign exchange (at its peak, $800 million annually) until South Sudan plunged back into chaos from which it sadly continues to wriggle in pain.

But that is not all about Atiak. It is also a sub-county with a partly bilingual community, speaking both Acholi and Madi. On the Gulu- Nimule road, nearer to the Uganda- South Sudan border is Bibia parish. Here, the bilingualism is more pronounced with Acholi and Madi effortlessly used interchangeable although one gets the sense that Bibia is mostly inhabited by the Madi even though the parish is administratively in Amuru District.

Omoro District has a sizeable community which is Lango (Luo) speaking because of being at the border between Acholi and Lango. Deputy Speaker of Parliament Jacob Oulanyah comes from one such community. Every election year, the geographical placement of his home village is used as parochialism to undermine his electoral chances. 
Fortunately, he has triumphed against the parochialism even though he has gone on to embrace another kind of narrowness, which makes him see Jesus-like qualities in long-ruling President Museveni. But that's for another day.
Today is for Apaa - that hotly contested for chunk of fertile land. The government and its technocrats say Apaa is located in Adjumani District, Apaa residents and Amuru political leaders say, no, it's in Amuru District. The conflict over Apaa has been on and off since 2010 when it first began to simmer.

About a month ago, the conflict took a bloody turn when rudimentary weapons were used in a bloody fight that the media framed as one between the Acholi and Madi.

The fight led to the senseless loss of nine lives, according to police in Aswa region (the politicians in Adjumani and Amuru are playing ping-pong over the number of dead and displaced with those in Amuru saying its higher while their mates in Adjumani counter that its lower).

Deceitful politicians in Amuru and Adjumani, a community that sees its livelihood threatened, issues around identity, land hounds in search for quick fortune, a distrusted government whose State apparatus is out for use by private hands in their quest for more land (a late UPDF General and a lover of a General have ever squared for a fight in Amuru - amazing, isn't it - land had a role in that too).

These are the combustible elements that make Apaa and generally Amuru, a district where UPDF soldiers guard private farms, a powderkeg needing the littlest striking of a matchbox to set a huge fireball.

But a far more deadly factor is tribalising the Apaa land conflict. ''During the time of encampment, Acholi and Madi people had settled together peacefully in the disputed area and afterwards united in resisting the evictions,'' noted a resident of Apaa in the Journal of Peace and Security Studies (Volume 1), a publication of the Gulu University Institute of Peace and Strategic Studies.

If the Acholi and Madi lived together in the displaced persons camps and resisted initial evictions from the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), then what happened along the way that they now fight each using deadly rudimentary weapons as they recently did? 
The answer is that in both Amuru and Adjumani districts, the conflict has been tribalised. This was the most immediate cause of the recent bloodletting. This has to stop to give way for a peaceful and credible process in resolving the conflict over Apaa.

Mr Odokonyero has interest in media development, communications and public affairs


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