Foreign Investment And The Tradegy Of Apaa
On Wednesday June 28, 2017, Acholi Times received a statement from members of the Acholi diaspora community addressed to the international community including but not limited to the US president, the UN Secretary General, the European Union, the British government and a host of international leaders and organisations. The statement was also addressed to the Ugandan government and Acholi political, cultural and religious leaders. We publish it below.
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We the undersigned members of the Acoli diaspora community in consultation with friends of Acoli, and in tandem with locally elected leaders, Acholi Religious Leaders, local Human Rights groups, the civil society and all peace loving members of the Uganda communities, are extremely concerned about the recurrent land conflicts in Apaa area of Amuru in Northern Uganda.
In particular, we are concerned about the gruesome maiming, unnecessary cold-blooded murders, as well as, torching of huts, destruction of livelihood of Acoli people in the areas of Apaa, Zoka and Itirikwa that occurred between June 4th -7th, 2017. We further note, with deep concern, the maturation of land grabbing in the sub region as manifest by the growth of land related violent conflicts
The Acoli and Madi communities have co-existed for decades without such magnitude of impunity. For instance, in areas, such as Atyak and Bibiya the Madi population outnumber the Acoli population; yet, both communities intermarry and co-exist peacefully without fighting over who owns the land or under which administrative jurisdiction the land belongs. Atyak and Bibiya represent the splendor and wealth of cultural diversity which Apaa is systematically being denied by the craze for foreign investments which lacks effective local consultation and participation.
Ignoring the root causes and long-term implications of this conflict will only serve the purpose of prolonging the tragedy of Apaa, hence, will make the NRM government seem complicit in advancing historical colonial injustices meted out on the people of Lamogi.
Following the 1911/1912 Lamogi resistance, the British colonial administration forcefully evicted the people from their customary land in Amuru and incarcerated them for over 25 years until 1936 at Pece and Bilbao areas in camps situated in the outskirts of present day Gulu town under pretext that the area was infested with Tsetse flies.
As the Lamogi, Boro, Parabongo, Pabbo, Pailyec clans remained in forceful internment, their land was converted by the colonial administration into a game park and part of it established as East Madi game reserve for European trophy hunters, but in the same year, renamed Kilak Controlled Hunting Area and later consolidated by the 1959 The Game (Preservation and Control) Ordinance N0.14.
However, in 1972, The Game (Preservation and Control) Abolition of Game Reserves instrument No.54 degazetted the Aswa/Lolim Game Reserve. Similarly, instrument No. 55 revoked the Kilak Hunting Area, which covered present day Apaa. The colonial and post-independence injustices against the people of Apaa that ended in 1972, was however, reignited and reinforced by the Northern Uganda insurgency which witnessed another wave of forceful displacement and encampment.
The above mentioned historical injustices has continuously disempowered and subjected the Acoli people, particularly, residents of Apaa to a transient state of homelessness. Such injustices must end, if the area is to experience any meaningful socio-economic developed and growth.
The 2015 boundary demarcation must be discounted because of its biasness and blatant act of land grab and request a transparent process of border revisiting, where an acceptable colonial map and/or most reliable method rooted in acceptable international instruments between the people of Amuru and Adjumani are devised. As both the local residence in Amuru and Adjumani indicate a strong desire for a peaceful settlement.
We therefore hereby resolve to call upon the Government of Uganda, West European countries, the United State of America, Canada, Australia, Russia, China, Japan, and all peace-loving countries of the world, as well as the United Nations, European Union, Africa Union and all other local, national and international organizations to help Apaa and its citizens establish peace, tranquility and participatory investments by appealing:
- To both the people of Amuru and Adjumani find a just and lasting solution to the recent problem of Apaa. While we commend President Museveni’s numerous pronouncements that Wanainchi should not be evicted from their lands. It is therefore inconceivable that land conflict in Apaa that threatens to eviction Acoli from their customary land is not receiving the same measure off warning.
- That all perpetuators of the senseless murders, maiming, destruction of property and mass displacement in Apaa be brought to justice before any consultation on development or investment issues.
- That a commission of inquiry be constituted to investigate the role of the Uganda Police in dereliction of their duties that allowed a wanton breakage in law and order in Apaa well knowing that this is a high conflict area; and the various politicians mentioned in the tragic narratives of Apaa land conflict. This appeal is rooted in the belief that Uganda is a law-abiding nation where the rule of law is enforced and that extra-judicial killings are a thing of the past regimes. We implore our leaders not to accept to move forward before the full weight of the law descends on the perpetrators of the Apaa tragedy and before the land dispute is decisively resolved.
- That any investment in sugarcane growth and production should be transparent, all-inclusive process consultation with clan leaders, landowners, chiefs, all elected and religious leaders and the traditionally vulnerable segment of society, such as women, persons with disability and the youths prioritise as investments partners. What has perennially lacked in most investment proposals in Amuru and elsewhere are the critical components of transparency, proper mechanisms for accountability, and the spirit and will to consultation the local communities.
- That Acholi districts are supported to plan and gazette industrial and commercial areas within their districts for investments. This will allow for planned investments, and where possible, reduce on land conflict and expropriation of land that are not available to investors. The Acholi people own their land, and are at liberty to lease or not lease land to investors.
- That future investment takes into consideration, the matter of environmental sustainability, more so, in regards to water and air pollution. The Amuru area, for instance, relies predominantly on the Acwa and Apaa rivers and therefore their contamination may threaten the lives of people in this area.
- That the government ensure that investors respect the court injunction while expediting and prioritizing solving the boundary resolution and that the people of Amuru and Apaa be protected from land conflicts, expropriation and escalating humanitarian crisis.
Lastly, we strongly urge the people of Amuru and Adjumani to remain as brothers and sisters, and to reflect deeply on their commonalities, rather than superintend to the interests of rogue political leaders and covert investors. Investors and investments should never divide a people who have lived together for decades on their cradle land.
- Jackie Lanyero Oloya
- Komakec Norbert Obonyo
- Morris Komakech