President Museveni Heads to Disputed Apaa Villages

2653 Views Gulu, Uganda

In short
The major disputes around the township relate to its ownership, economic land use for settlement or wildlife conservation and geographical boundaries of Amuru and Adjumani districts.

President Yoweri Museveni is set to visit Apaa, the village at the heart of tensions between the districts of Amuru and Adjumani, Uganda Wildlife Authority and the National Forestry Authority. The visit is scheduled for today, Wednesday.

The major disputes around the township relate to its ownership, economic land use for settlement or wildlife conservation, geographical boundaries of Amuru and Adjumani after the area measuring about 200 square kilometres was controversially declared a conservation area in 2002.

Uganda Wildlife Authority claims that Parliament gazetted the area, a Wildlife reserve, after Adjumani district local government declared it as part of East Madi Game Reserve.  Amuru district challenged the decision in Court. Local government Minister Tom Butime also declared the area part of Adjumani district last October.

After experiencing numerous eviction attempts, Apaa has become a shadow of its former glory - abandoned and ransacked. Its boundary with Amuru district is under heavy UPDF deployment and access to Amuru district leaders remains restricted. 

In April this year, President Yoweri Museveni said he would visit the area and resolve the long-standing dispute. He said the area will be de-gazetted if he found overriding demands for human settlement.

Anthony Akol, the Member of Parliament for Kilak North County says they expect the president to be considerate of the land rights of the indigenous people as he visits the area today.
 
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Akol says earlier Parliamentary decisions and presidential commitments which halted evictions of residents from the disputed area should also be considered during the negotiation.
 
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Residents in the affected areas are optimistic that the presidential visit will bring a permanent solution to the land crisis that has killed at least 17 people since 2012.
 
Wilson Acuma, the Chairperson of Apaa Evictions Survivors' Association says more than 15,000 homesteads have been destroyed since 2012 when the first eviction took place.

Sheik Musa Khelil, the vice chairperson of Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative (ARLPI) said religious leaders will also submit a memorandum of proposals on how to peacefully resolve the conflict once and for all.

 

About the author

Peter Labeja
Peter Labeja has been a practicing journalist for the last 13 years during which he has covered part of the brutal conflict which bedeviled Northern Uganda as well as the painful transition to Peace thereafter. Emerging post conflict issues such as land rights of under privileged widows and orphans, challenges of access to social services in the immediate aftermath of Lord’s Resistance Army conflict in Northern Uganda.

Labeja is now the Northern Uganda Bureau chief in Acholi Sub Region since 2014 - Gulu, Amuru, Nwoya and Omoro districts as well as South Sudan falls within his areas of jurisdiction. He previously worked with The Vision Group for four years.

Labeja’s major career interests are in Climate Change; Agriculture and Environment - natural resources such as Water, Oil and Gas; Transitional Justice; Human Rights, Democracy and Governance as well as South Sudan’s humanitarian crisis. In 2013, Labeja was awarded a prestigious Pan African Journalism Award for excellence in journalism at United Nation’s UNEP headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya for Climate Change and Health Reporting.