Gulu — A total of 234 residents evicted from the contested Apaa land in Adjumani District have agreed to leave the United Nations (UN) compound in Gulu Town where they have been camping for a month.
The decision was reached following a series of discussions with the acting UN Resident Coordinator, Mr Alan Sibenaler,
Addressing journalists in Gulu Town on Monday, the group chairperson, Mr Sylvesto Odoki, revealed that they agreed to return home after the UN promised to build a health facility and schools that were burnt down by security forces during the ongoing eviction.
"We are leaving their (UN) compound on Thursday [tomorrow] because they have agreed to revive our schools and put up for us a health facility. The resident coordinator (Mr Sibenaler) promised to engage the President on the issue in September; this made us very hopeful for a solution," Mr Odoki said.
About 5,000 pupils who were studying in Punu Dyang, Juka, Apaa, Lajalula, Oyanga, Aketi, Amani and Oyai primary schools have been left stranded in the ongoing evictions that started early this year.
He said the UN official told them that they were not aware of the real situation in Apaa until the residents camped in the compound.
"They said they were so green about our dilemma because government had continued to lie that our problems had been solved," Mr Odoki said.
"We have welcomed promises and pledges by the UN as victims of Apaa evictions but if they fail to honour that, it will not stop us from seeking other means or steps to ensure that we defend our lives and properties," he added.
Although she is set to go back home, Ms Agnes Atenyo, one of the evictees, said she is not sure of her safety since the UPDF soldiers, who have been executing the evictions, are still present.
Kilak North MP Anthony Akol said camping at the UN compound by residents/evictees from Apaa has yielded fruit.
He said Parliament is set to debate a petition they tabled to the Speaker of Parliament to seek full intervention in solving the land question in Apaa.
The State minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, Mr Musa Ecweru, had earlier wondered why the residents had chosen to camp at the UN offices yet government was better placed to host and protect them. "It is not the duty of UN to host the people, especially within their country. This is the responsibility of the government," he said.
The residents from Apaa Village in Itirikwa Sub-county, Adjumani District, pitched camp at the UN compound in Gulu Municipality on July 11, protesting forceful eviction by government security forces. The residents demanded that the UN intervenes and stops the UPDF and the Uganda Wildlife Authority rangers from forcibly evicting them from the contentious piece of land.
Mr Bernard Amwine, the UN human rights spokesperson, noted that they had informed the petitioners and the government that its office compound is not suitable to host the group.