Gov’t gives three months ultimatum for Apaa land settlers to vacate

The contested land is located 8 kilometers deep inside East Madi Wild Life protected area and the encroachers have been told to vacate with effect from tomorrow.

Prime Minister Rt. Hon Robinah Nabbanja receives a warm reception from district leaders at Adjumani Model Secondary School (Photo/Amacha Goli)

ADJUMANI, UGANDA: Prime Minister Rt. Hon. Robina Nabanja has issued a three months ultimatum for all the encroachers in East Madi Wild Life Reserve and Zoka Central Foret Reserve to vacate or face forceful eviction.

Apaa contested area which is located 8 kilometers in Adjumani is deep inside East Madi Wild Life protected area and the encroachers have been decreed to vacate with effect from tomorrow.

East Madi Wild Life Reserve which houses Zoka Central Forest Reserve covers an area of 827 square kilometers while Zoka Central Forest Reserve is estimated at 6147 hectares.

Speaking to leaders in a fully parked council hall today, February 15, 2023, prime minister Robina Nabanja who appeared strangely jolly said” God will save us this time as we put the situation to rest”.

She was flanked by the 2nd deputy prime minister Gen.Moses Ali, minister of local government Raphael Magezi and minister of state for Northern Uganda Grace Kocywuinyi and said “Am on a mission to communicate the government position on Apaa to leaders in Adjumani district”.

“As am here meeting you another team led by the 3rd deputy prime minister Mr. Rukia Isanga Nakadama is meeting district leaders in Amuru to convey the same government position on Apaa”.

She told the responsively listening leaders that she has come to build on what the government has done but not to make pronouncements on new developments as she referred to the cabinet decisions on Apaa in 2019 and 2022.

The prime minister announced that the cabinet has decided that all encroachers in East Madi Wild Life Reserve where Apaa is situated and Zoka Central Foret Reserve be ordered to vacate.

The cabinet according to Robina Nabanja has endorsed and approved a resettlement package for the rightful claimants and 394 households have been enlisted for compensation.

She said beneficiary identification and selection have been carried out by the office of the prime minister and 71 households who have acquired National Identification cards between 2013 and 2014 will receive shs 10m,20 bags of cement, and 20 iron sheets while the remainder without IDs in that period will get shs 2m.

“During the implementation period of the cabinet position on Apaa the office of the prime minister will undertake food distribution to both the encroachers for a period of six months which is adequate to cover the implementation period.

“I have come with officials from central government, we are giving a period of 3 months from February 15-March to 15,2023, and beyond this period any person found in the gazetted area will face forceful evictions.

According to the prime minister, the government positions cover the cabinet decision made in 2019 and 2022, the progress so far made and the purpose of the meeting is to fast-track decisions of the cabinet.

The Adjumani district chairman Anyama Ben declared that the people in Adjumani are willing to coexist and stay together with their brothers and sisters in the Amuru district in the spirit of African unity.

Mr. Anyama Ben said the decision of the government will ensure the sustainability of nature for the benefit of future generations and also help generate considerable income to the government through tourism and legitimate trade in forest products.

She decreed that the peaceful eviction process starts tomorrow, and appealed to Adjumani district leaders and government technical officers from different ministries including all security agencies to embark on vigorous sensitization of the community.

The minister of local government Raphael Magezi said the government has instructed him to close the Apaa market and he has accordingly issued an ultimatum of one month for closing the Apaa market, he said all market vendors in Apaa and those who have constructed lock-ups must consider relocating to another market effect tomorrow February 16, 2023.

The Adjumani woman MP Ababiku Jesca said the pronouncement made by the prime minister is a huge restoration of hope among the people of the Madi sub-region and west Nile and pledged the total support of the leaders and the populace of Adjumani district.

Ababiku Jesca however cautioned the prime minister against some military commanders in the Apaa who are on record for betraying the government as they often premised their actions along tribal and sectarian lines while appealing to the Madi encroachers to peacefully vacate as they will not receive any support.

Apaa contested area has witnessed a spiral of violence after relative peace returned in Northern Uganda following over two decades of the insurgence of the Lord’s Resistance Army of Joseph Kony when post-insurgency resettlement was taking shape.

A group of people from Internally Displaced Peoples Camps in the Pabo sub-county flocked to the Apaa area in 2006 as more of their relatives who were attracted by the illicit trade in charcoal, lumbering, and logging, joined them in later years.

Leaders in the Amuru district started claiming ownership of the Apaa area leading to serious backlash from Madi leaders leading to the infamous battle of Gorobi river in March 2018 where the arrow shooting Madi vigilantes inflicted maximum causalities on the attacking Acholi forces.

On August 22,2018, President Yoweri Museveni addressed a rally in Apaa contested area and declared that is Apaa Adjumani district and located in East Madi Wild Life Reserve.

The storm appears to be over, but this largely depends on whether the ladders and the greater populace in Amuru will respect the position of the government and mobilize the populace for peace.

But also given the magnitude of illicit trade in the wildlife area and Zoka forest where massive charcoal business, lumbering, logging and scramble for cheap land which is perpetuated by invisible government officials operating on orders from above it may be a nightmare curtailing the illegalities in the area.

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