• Fri. Jun 9th, 2023

Govt Denies Plan to Give Disputed Apaa Land to South African Investor Following Evictions

UGANDA, Apaa | Real Muloodi NewsThe government has denied allegations that it plans to give the disputed Apaa land to a South African investor, calling the claims false and misleading. This comes in the wake of its controversial decision to evict Apaa residents.

Security Minister Maj. Gen. (Rtd) Jim Muhwezi instead blamed local political and cultural leaders for using lies to fan tensions over the land.

“I want to dispel the allegations that the government gave or intends to give the Apaa land to an investor and that we are lying about the game reserve and forest to give the land to a South African investor; that is not true,” he said during a statement at Amuru District headquarters Wednesday, 15 February.

Gen. Muhwezi was responding to statements by some Acholi leaders, including Kilak South MP Gilbert Olanya, who claimed that plans to hand over the Apaa land to an investor were in advanced stages. Mr. Olanya alleged that “The land of Apaa was given to an investor called Bruce Martins from South Africa, and now the government is trying to use UWA [Uganda Wildlife Authority], NFA [National Forestry Authority], police, and soldiers to displace people to secure the Apaa land and give it to the investor, and this is one fact that you will not run away from.”

In response, Gen. Muhwezi challenged Mr. Olanya to provide details of the contract signed between the government and the investor. “I ask the leaders not to make inflammatory statements that can polarize the people. As we move to solve the land problem of the forest reserve and the game reserve, the people must remain peaceful, and no one should cause insecurity,” he said.

While some Acholi leaders have urged the government to consider de-gazetting the Apaa land as part of a solution to end the conflict, the government insists that this is not possible. According to Third Deputy Prime Minister Rukia Nakadama, de-gazetting the disputed Apaa land would present legal complexities. “The degazettement of the reserve may not be achieved in the immediate future because it requires an amendment of the laws by Parliament. On one hand, if this happens, it sets a bad precedent, we have many areas around the country where people have encroached and are game reserves or parks, and we are yet to secure them,” Ms. Nakadama said.

Media investigations have established that in 2015, Bruce Martin, said to be the proprietor of Lake Albert Safari Lodge, withdrew his interest in the Apaa land due to land conflicts.

Decision to Evict Apaa Residents

Last Wednesday 15 February, the government ordered the eviction of residents currently settled in the disputed Apaa land. According to the orders, the occupants must exit within three months or be forcefully evicted, and the Apaa Central market must be closed by the Local Government ministry within one month.

The Prime Minister, Robinah Nabbanja, visited the area to deliver the Cabinet’s decision, informing residents of Apaa that they have until May 15 to voluntarily vacate the land that has been de-gazetted as a wildlife conservation area by the Uganda Wildlife Authority.

Those who refuse to leave after May 15, 2023, will be forcefully evicted. The decision was welcomed by the Madi people in Adjumani District, but local leaders and residents of Apaa expressed disappointment, calling it inconsiderate and malicious.

Reactions from Local Leaders and Residents over the Eviction Order

Members of parliament from the Acholi sub-region have vowed to take the government to court, both locally and internationally, over the directive.

Acholi parliamentary group chairperson and Kilak North MP, Anthony Akol, questioned the motive behind the eviction, as the president banned all land evictions in the country last year.

Akol alleges that some government officials are plotting to grab the land from bonafide owners who deserve to be listened to.

The matter is in court, with two cases on Apaa pending, and a court injunction from 2012 also exists on the issue.

The Adjumani District Chairperson, Ben Anyama, disassociated himself from tribal sentiments, pledged his total support and commitment to the government in all forms, and called on the government to uphold and implement the decisions and recommendations made by the various committees set up to resolve the Apaa issue.

History of Apaa Land

The Apaa land, situated between Amuru and Adjumani districts in Northern Uganda, has been the subject of a long-standing dispute between the Acholi and Madi communities, with each claiming ownership of the land.

Apaa Village, with an estimated population of 35,000 people, was formerly under Lubla Parish, Pabo Sub-county in Amuru District.

The government has attempted to resolve the issue, but it remains unresolved.

The Acholi leaders have urged the government to de-gazette the area as part of a solution to end the conflict, but the government argues that this is not feasible due to legal complexities.

The Apaa land dispute has attracted national and international attention, with civil society groups and activists calling on the government to respect the rights of the people in Apaa and resolve the issue peacefully.

The situation is complex and requires a comprehensive and inclusive approach to resolve the dispute.

The government must engage with all stakeholders, including the Acholi and Madi communities, civil society groups, and other interested parties to find a lasting solution to the Apaa land conflict.


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