15 February 2019

Uganda: Opposition MPs Blocked From Visiting Displaced Apaa Residents

Kampala, Uganda — Eleven opposition Members of Parliament have been blocked from visiting displaced residents of Apaa Township in Juka Trading Center.

The more than 700 residents were displaced by a spate of renewed violence in Acholi Ber and Goro B villages in Apaa Township.

On Thursday, Members of Parliament who were traveling to visit the displaced residents led by the Leader of Opposition in Parliament Betty Aol Ochan and Opposition Chief Whip Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda were stopped by armed police officers.

A dozens of Police officers dressed in the Field Force Unit Uniform commanded by Adjumani district Police Commander Seguya Kimera stopped the group at the military checkpoint between Amuru and Adjumani district.

Kimera said the security situation in the area is fragile for the legislators to meet the displaced residents from Adjumani district.

It is at this checkpoint that a signpost was forcefully erected by government to signal the disputed boundary between Amuru and Adjumani districts in 2015. Since then, a military detach has been erected to guard the signpost from being vandalized by angry residents of Amuru district.

The legislators found the road closed with wooden logs and a huge Police sign "Stop Police Check Point" under tight security guards. Kimera told the group to return back to Amuru because they had not been cleared by Adjumani district security committee to visit the residents on the side of Amuru district.

Agnes Linda Akello, the Amuru Resident District Commissioner accompanied the legislators from Amuru Town Council to the disputed border with Adjumani. She told the legislators that her mandate of providing security to the MPs had ended at the Checkpoint where they encountered the roadblock.

Aol, led the group back to Gulu Town saying it is a shame that Police asked the group for clearance to visit an area in Uganda. She said they were visiting the disputed township with the intention to perform an oversight function of parliament and fact-finding into the root causes of the Apaa land dispute.

Anthony Akol, the Kilak North Member of Parliament said the visit is part of a fact-finding mission the LOP is leading across the country. He says they have so far visited areas affected by land conflicts in Western Uganda, Northern Uganda, and Eastern Uganda.

According to Akol, the opposition MPs are also visiting learning institutions to understand why they perform poorly in National Examinations. In Gulu, they are due to visit Sir Samuel Baker School on Friday.

Apaa Township is at the heart of a 17-year-long protracted territorial dispute between Amuru and Adjumani districts with each claiming the swathes of land measuring 827 Square Kilometers. The area has been gazetted and degazetted multiple times by Parliament of Uganda into a conservation area.

The dispute was triggered in 2002 when Adjumani district local government asked Parliament of Uganda to elevate the status of the area from a former controlled hunting area to a Wildlife Reserve. The latest flare of the dispute has displaced an estimated 700 residents from Goro B and Acholi Ber villages on January 17th to Juka Trading Center.

The renewed violence left 48 huts burnt down and several properties destroyed.

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