Women & Children Walk Three Days to Demand for their Men/Fathers from Police

Several women and children in Apaa village, Amuru district were left without their husbands/fathers after police men arrested all men in some of the households following a land row in which certain residents' houses were burnt. That was on Friday last week. A section of the women reacted decided to walk, together with their children, to wherever the men were taken by the police. As it turned out, police took the detainees to Anaka police station in Nwoya district instead of any of the stations in Amuru itself. The women were not to be fazed. They decided to walk there anyway. They arrived at the police station on Monday 22nd July after three days of walking on foot and remain stationed there claiming they can't live without their men, reports Jimmy Ojara from Nwoya district.

Apaa village is serial flashpoint of the kind of land disputes that have characterised Northern Uganda since locals started resettling back home from the internally displaced people's camps that they lived in during the LRA war. Over the past three years, violence/chaos over disputed land has erupted at least 10 times according to a 2012 report by Refugee Law Project. Actors in these disputes have included; locals, Amuru and Adjumani district leaders, Uganda Wildlife Authority, Ministy of Lands and Urban Development, UPDF, three cabinet ministers and Acholi parliamentarians.

The Role of Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA): The Refugee Law Project report explains that the Uganda Wildlife Authority claims the area is part of East Madi game reserve. In July 2010, its game wardens were reported to have burnt 170 huts on the village in an attempt to evict purported encroachers on the reserve. Upto 6,000 residents are categorised by UWA as encroachers. The ensuing chaos from that episode forced the minister of tourism to halt the eviction but weeks after the halt, three cabinet ministers who visited the area to consult on the issue found themselves in harms way when residents become rowdy during the meeting. Police and UWA wardens fired live bullets and tear-gas to disperse the residents and rescue the ministers. UWA resumed the eviction exercise in February 2012 and again, the authority's representative were accused of using violent (live bullets & beatings) to force evictees onto its trucks. One civilian was killed in the exercise.

District Boundaries Dispute: Away from the UWA game reserve dispute, the leaders Adjumani and Amuru districts bicker over the same area with each claiming it as part of their territory. In August last year, a team of nine surveyors were sent by the Ministry of Land and Urban Development to survey and demarcate the disputed district border but failed to. They had been escorted by the RDC of Amuru and West Nile leaders. The politicians represented themselves as there to consult with residents on the dispute but as they held the consultative meeting, the surveyors were at the disputed border surveying and demarcating. When residents learnt of the trickery, chaos broke out and the entire party was forcefully sent out of the area.

Locals Vs Neighbours: Unrelated to either of the two above disputes, local residents also conflict among themselves for access to and use of the land. According to the Refugee Law report, in January last year, some residents from Amuru district were accused of invading Itirikwa Sub County, in Zoka Parish, Adjumani district – leaving five persons with injuries.

- July 25, 2013
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