Locals of Acholiber Village in Apaa, Adjumani District, flee their homes following clashes over the contested land in 2018. Fresh clashes broke out in the area two weeks ago. PHOTO/TOBBIAS JOLLY OWINY
By Tobbias Jolly Owiny
Security forces have arrested 48 suspects in connection with the latest attacks on locals residing in the disputed Apaa land in Adjumani District.
The UPDF 4th Infantry Division said the suspects were intercepted on Wednesday as they launched attacks on innocent and unarmed residents.
According to the army leadership, the attackers were armed with machetes, bows and arrows, while others carried sticks during the attacks in which 63 people were injured.
For example, 30 people were last evening arrested during a crackdown by a joint police and military forces at Zoka B Village in Itirikwa Sub-county.
“In an effort to stop violence in Apaa and the neighbourhood of Zoka, we have deployed forces on the ground to manage the situation and several arrests have been made,” Lt Hammed Hassan Kato, the division army spokesman, said.
“Last evening, 48 people from the Madhi community from Aliwara Village and other places from Itirikwa Sub County [were arrested]. After thorough screening of the suspects, we handed over 17 of them to police in Amuru District for further management,” he added. Advertisement
The move is aimed at avoiding unnecessary and unconditional release from detention after committing crimes by police in Adjumani in the past.
Lt Kato told this newspaper that security has been beefed up in Apaa, and that the UPDF soldiers have been deployed to the area to ensure law and order.
“We have sent soldiers there to back up the police to ensure calm and sanity is restored. As of now, there is relative calm unlike at the beginning,” Lt Kato said.
According to him, the deployment followed an attack on July 31 in which several residents of Punudyang and Acholiber villages were injured and their properties looted.
“We appeal to both communities to stop violence against each other as the government is doing its best to sort out the matter. We shall keep our boots on the ground until normalcy is restored,” he added.
The crackdown follows fresh clashes in Apaa land in the past two weeks in which more than 66 people have been injured.
However, the situation intensified mid last week when four people were cut with machetes, while one other identified as Denis Akera, 21, was injured in the abdomen with an arrow.
Mr Akera, according to local authorities, is receiving medical treatment from Paboo Health Centre III.
According to Mr Alfred Acuma, the village chief from Acholiber, the machete-wielding men speak Madhi language.
“They first came on July 27, once they reach your home, they force you and family members to leave the house, they take away your food, livestock and any other precious items they find inside the house and if you resist, they hit you right away,” Mr Acuma said.
Many homesteads in Zoka Trading Centre, Acholiber, Punudyang, have been overtaken by the gangs, Daily Monitor has established.
On Tuesday, Mr Peter Taban Data, the Adjumani Resident District Commissioner, said on August 1, a member of the Acholi community was reportedly beaten and injured by the Madhi community.
However, when the Acholi community avenged the following day by attacking a man (currently receiving treatment at Adjumani hospital) from the Madhi side, clashes sparked off.
“What sparked the misunderstanding was a stretch of land in Lulai which the two communities are claiming ownership. Right now, the situation is under control, we have deployed security on ground to avoid further attacks between the two communities,”Mr Data said.
He added that the Apaa conflict requires serious intervention from the government because it has escalated.
Meanwhile, Mr Ben Anyama, the district chairman, said they have written to their counterparts in Amuru inviting them for a joint meeting to find a lasting solution to the conflict.
“The planned meeting will include all the LC3 chairpersons neighbouring Amuru, the chief administrative officers, RDCs, DISOs and other stakeholders from both districts,” Mr Anyama said.
Local authorities in Apaa, however, said they were not aware of any death case, a claim that contrasts media reports that at least two people reportedly lost their lives due to the clashes that erupted on Sunday.
They say several injured victims had been admitted to Lacor Health Centre in Amuru Town, while others nursed their injuries from home.
Mr Moaraincio Abola, the Apaa Village chairperson, said at least 66 people had been recorded to have been injured during the attacks.
“We are [still] computing, and the numbers could be more. Meanwhile, we have recorded more than 220 families displaced by the conflict although many more families are yet on the run and have not settled,” Mr Abola said.
Several attempts to speak to Speaker of Parliament Jacob Oulanyah about the demands of the Acholi MPs to come out with a report were futile since he did not answer our repeated calls. However, earlier, he appeared at Northern Uganda Media Club for a press briefing during which he told journalists that he was not responding to any questions regarding the role of his committee in Apaa since it was confidential.
On Wednesday last week, Acholi Parliamentary Group chairman Anthony Akol, also area MP for Kilak North, presented the matter before Parliament, prompting a debate. Mr Oulanyah then directed in conclusion that the Ministry of Disaster Preparedness should go on the ground and support the displaced persons with food relief and other things necessary.
He also directed the Security ministry to boost military deployment to the area to back up the few police personnel in ensuring that the criminals are brought to book and those invading the homes and residing in them should be driven back where they came from. However, by Tuesday morning, neither the Security ministry nor the Relief and Disaster Preparedness ministry had swung to action to enforce the directive.