House Committee makes recommendations on Apaa conflict

The Select Committee of Parliament has asked Government to stay plans to relocate or evict people from Apaa.

The Committee established last year has also recommended that the proposal by Government to degazzete 25sq. km be reviewed, to ensure that there is adequate land to accommodate the community needs.

Parliament established the committee to investigate the state of affairs relating to the land conflicts in the Apaa Community; determine the root causes of the conflicts and internal displacements of persons; and to propose the way forward in finding a lasting solution to the said conflict for purposes of promoting harmonious co-existence of different ethnic groups.

Presenting the Committee Report to Parliament sitting on Wednesday 8 July 2020, Chairperson, Hon. Agnes Ameede, said that the conflict in Apaa was three dimensional, highlighting a conflict between Uganda Wildlife Authority and the residents of Apaa; the border dispute between Amuru and Adjumani districts, and the tribal conflict in Zoka between the Acholi and the Madi over land.

“Due to the animosity that characterized the conflict, the Committee recommends that a Peace and Reconciliation Committee be formed to foster community relations and facilitate the Acholi community to accept the new administration of Adjumani District Local Government,” she said.

Ameede said that the conflict in Apaa within the Reserve was between the residents who claimed customary ownership of the land and UWA that had the mandate to manage all the wildlife reserves.

She said UWA moved in to evict the people who had settled in the Wildlife Reserve, but were faced with stiff resistance leading to confrontation.

She added that the border dispute between Adjumani and Amuru and encroachment of the East Madi Wild Reserve started in 2007; and that Committee observed that there was a long stretch of land of 27kms connecting the sources of River Choro and River Ceri, which Government had declared as the border.

However, the boundary was disputed by the people of Amuru District who argued that the boundary was at River Zoka/Juka.

She also told Parliament that regarding the tribal conflict between the Madi and the Acholi over land ownership in Zoka, located outside the Reserve; the Committee observed that “there was a systematic form of organized militia to cause insecurity or sow mayhem, with the sole purpose of displacing people and to grab land”.

The Committee report indicates that inter-tribal clashes arose out of incitement by the political leaders from both Amuru and Adjumani districts, who urged the people to protect their customary land; with the last clashes registered on 17 and 26 January 2019 and 06 February 2019 in Zoka C.

Ameede commended police and other security organs for establishing peace and stability in the community through containing the inter-tribal attacks and clashes.

“The Committee observed that the establishment of a police post at Zoka C had contributed to the enhancement of security in the area. It also addressed the discomfort and mistrust by the Acholi community which had been apprehensive to report cases at Adjumani District Police Headquarters,” reads the report.

The Committee report cited economic interests including timber lumbering and charcoal burning in the Reserve and in Zoka Forest as activities that had attracted people to move to Apaa; causing scramble for the land that further fueled the conflict.

“The Committee was also informed that political leaders from Amuru District do not want Apaa to be part of Adjumani for fear of losing the votes from the Apaa people who are Acholi. On the other hand the political leaders from Adjumani want the Acholi community relocated for fear that they will not favour them politically,” continues the report.

The Select Committee also recommended that Government ought to reopen boundaries before pronouncing administrative units to avoid future conflict, and that investigations be carried out to identify individuals that participated in crimes during the inter-tribal clashes.

“The Committee recommends that Government investigates and apprehends individuals in security agencies who were alleged to be conniving and abetting illegal lumbering and charcoal burning which is fueling the social economic facets of the conflict in Apaa,” reads the report.