13 November 2012

Uganda: Acholi Leaders Defy Court Over War Claimants' Cash

The Acholi Parliamentary group wants a special audit on the Acholi War Debt Claimants' Association (AWDC) following reports of corruption.

Meeting in Gulu town on Saturday, the MPs, led by Reagan Okumu (Aswa), said they would seek a serious audit, after it emerged that up to Shs 5bn may have been paid out to non-bonafide people.

"This audit should be conducted by a private auditor and also the Auditor General and not the auditor that is brought by the [AWDC] executives," Okumu said at the meeting called by Gulu RDC James Nabinson Kidega.

The meeting went ahead despite a High court injunction prompted by an application by the AWDC executives, a day earlier.

"The meeting is illegal; they had no right because we got a court order restraining them and so the result of their meeting has no consequence to the association," said AWDC Chairman Noah Opwonya.

But Okumu dismissed Opwonya's intervention.

"It's not a matter of stopping the meeting. People have lost their animals and they are seeking compensation ... Instead, people who never lost animals are benefiting and you expect them to sit and wait," Okumu retorted.

Gulu chairperson Martin Mapenduzi Ojara also insisted AWDC were aware that they are in the wrong.

"We heard on the radios that ... they will record the voice of the RDC so that they can use it as evidence of defying the court injunction. You can go ahead to record it but on the issues that affect our community we leaders have to be accountable," Ojara stated.

At the meeting, members expressed shock that the AWDC executives had been paying out millions to themselves as sitting allowances, while the genuine claimants were yet to receive any money. The enraged claimants marched to the AWDC office and then to the police station, demanding Opwonya's arrest. But by then, AWDC executives had fled.

The AWDC association was formed in 2005. Barely 500 of the over 8,000 claimants have been paid, while a further 17,000 are yet to be verified.

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