Uganda: Apaa Leaders Storm EC Office Over Closure of Polling Centres

16 September 2019

Local leaders in Lamogi Sub-county, Amuru District at the weekend stormed the offices of the Electoral Commission (EC) protesting the closure of three polling stations on allegations that they are in East Madi Game reserve.

The polling stations, which include Apaa Health Centre II, Apaa Market and Apaa Primary School, are part of the land under dispute.

"An official from EC on Friday reached out to us over the matter and he notified us that the polling stations are no longer in existence. We were concerned and decided to reach out to EC offices in Amuru District to understand the matter clearly," he said.

"How can the polling stations be no more without the notification of us the leaders? This is wrong. There are more than 5,000 voters in those polling stations, where do they want them to vote from?" Mr Abola asked.

He accused government of plotting to disfranchise the voters and take their land.

Mr Francis Okumu, an elder, said he has been voting from Apaa Health Centre II polling station since 1996.

"We are eligible voters of this country and no one should stand in our way. EC should instead add more polling stations in the area [considering] the growing population," Mr Okumu said.

Mr Anthony Akol, the Kilak North MP, accused the EC of operating outside Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah's directive.

In May, Mr Oulanyah was tasked to preside over a committee to resolve the dispute concerning the land which is being claimed by both Adjumani and Amuru district local governments. "We have reached out to Mr Oulanyah, who said he is not aware of any EC activity in the area and he maintains his stand that people should remain where they are until further notice," Mr Akol said.

Mr Oulanyah did not pick our repeated calls.

Ms Gertrude Ajwang, the EC registrar in Amuru, told Daily Monitor that the affected persons should seek help from Ministry of Local Government.

A total of 2,100 people, who were forced to leave their villages in February following clashes between Madi from Adjumani and Acholi from Amuru, are still camping at Juka Trading Centre in Apaa Parish.

A total of 26,000 people are currently settled on the disputed Apaa land, measuring 89 square kilometres.

In 2015, government began the process of demarcating administrative boundaries between Amuru and Adjumani district in what it described as a move to restore calm among the communities.

In October 2017, the Local Government minister, Mr Tom Butime, officially handed over Apaa to Adjumani District officials after completing demarcation exercise, sparking off other clashes among the two communities.

About the land

Government maintains that the area in question is part of East Madi Wildlife Game reserve and Zoka Central Forest Reserve that was gazetted by Parliament in 1963, a theory backed by the Adjumani District Local Government officials.

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