Arrests Over Apaa Demonstration in Gulu
Police in Gulu Monday briefly arrested five legislators in a demonstration over the Apaa land conflict.
The contested Apaa land is claimed by both Amuru and Adjumani districts.
The legislators were released but John Bosco Uhuru, an environmental activist, and an organizer of the demonstration remains in police custody.
The long running conflict over Apaa has recently flared up again, leading to the displacement of 2,100 people from their homes, touching of 48 huts, injuries, and destruction of property.
The most affected villages in the latest conflict are Juka B and Goro B villages which have in the past weeks been attacked by men armed with arrows, machetes and spears. The men reportedly come from Adjumani district.
Monday’s protesters held placards written on: “leave Apaa land to the historical owners”. Members of Parliament in the demo included Kilak North MP Anthony Akol, Amuru woman MP, Lucy Akello, Tochi County MP, Peter Okot, Kilak, South MP Gilbert Olanya and the Aruu North County MP, Samuel Odonga Otto.
The legislators along with youthful activists had intended to March to Holy Parish in Gulu town to ostensibly to pray for the victims of Apaa. The demonstrators who were peaceful were however blocked by anti-riot Police officers along Jomo Kenyatta Road near Gulu Main Market before being bundled into a white Police Patrol Pickup and driven off to Gulu Central Police Station.
Three of the legislators Otto, Olanya and Akol however fled Gulu Central Police where they had been taken for interrogation on boda bodas.
The Aswa River Region Police Spokesperson Jimmy Patrick Okema said the police stopped the demonstration because it was illegal. Okema said although organizers had written to the Inspector General of Police Martin Okoth Ochola requesting for permission to hold a peaceful demonstration, police in Gulu had not received any communication from Ochola authorizing the demonstration.
“We received a letter written to the Inspector General of Police by Uhuru (organizer of the demo) intending to hold a demonstration but the IGP has not written back to us okaying the demonstration… the Gulu DPC (district police commander) and the Aswa River Region Police Commander did not receive any communication from Mr
Ochola so we can’t allow it to happen,” said Okema.
Okema said the police will charge Uhuru who is the only one left in custody with inciting violence and holding unlawful assembly.
This is not the first time Uhuru has been arrested by police in Gulu for holding demonstrations. In November last year, Mr Uhuru was detained by the police for spearheading a protest against electricity distribution company, Umeme, following several months of power outage in Acholi Sub-region. He was however released on police bond after being charged with inciting violence and holding unlawful assembly.
Speaking to Acholi Times in an interview on Monday, Mr Olanya however accused the police of interfering with their procession which was peaceful and in solidarity with the people of Apaa.
“I believe we were not a threat in any way to the security of the town, we were matching to show support for our people who are being attacked and evicted from their own ancestral land. The Police acted like they are in support of the perpetrators instead of supporting the oppressed,” Mr Olanya said.
Olanya said they are determined to hold another protest in Pabbo. He did not say when.