27 November 2012

Uganda: 'Mr President, Please Take Away Gulu RDC'

The Acholi War Debt Claimants' Association (AWDC) leaders have asked President Museveni to remove the new Gulu RDC, James Nabinson Kidega, from the Acholi sub-region.

AWDC leaders accuse Kidega of gross misconduct and interfering with the compensation process. In a five-page letter to the president, a copy of which The Observer has seen, the leaders accuse the RDC of spending most of his time in Gulu town with jobless criminals, rumour mongers, and idlers.

"The conduct of the new RDC is so disgraceful that it is not good for the promotion of the interest of NRM government and H.E. the President...," reads the letter in part.

"If he [RDC] is not stopped, removed from Acholi region, he is no doubt going to destroy the very good work that the leadership of Acholi War Debt Claimants Association...did to engage the community to accept to reconcile and work with the NRM government for the restoration of permanent peace and development."

The letter is co-signed by AWDC Chairman Noah Opwonya and General Secretary Dick Nyero. The RDC is also accused, in the letter, of lacking basic administrative skills, acting on rumours, having no respect for the elders and opinion leaders, among others. They say he has been inciting the public against AWDC leaders.

The accusations come after Kidega questioned AWDC leaders' operations in compensating people affected by the 20-year LRA conflict. For instance, in an interview with The Observer recently, the RDC accused AWDC executives of trying to bribe him with Shs 40m.

"...These people [AWDC] came here and they were handing me Shs 40m cash and I asked them why. They said it was for me to help them, so when I refused and told them that this money is meant for the claimants, they frankly told me it was not anything big."

In the last two years, the government has released about Shs 5bn for the war victims. However, only 500 of the 8,000 claimants have been compensated. Even then, it's feared that the money might have been swindled or spent on allowances for AWDC executives. Kidega told The Observer that some of the beneficiaries allegedly compensated have denied receiving any money.

Since 2005, when the association was formed, of the 8,000 claimants about 500 have reportedly been paid. Another 17,000 are yet to be verified for compensation. A recent meeting of Acholi MPs and claimants sided with Kidega and called for a probe into the association's activities.

Meanwhile, AWDC leaders say they will continue with their work despite doors to their offices being bolted by angry members. Opwonya told The Observer that although they were at liberty to reopen the offices, they would rather this was done through the courts. RDC Kidega last week said he would also refer the matter of AWDC to the president for advice, since the association members wanted the leaders out.

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