AMOLATAR, UGANDA: At least six houses were set ablaze, and property worth millions of shillings destroyed in Amolatar District on Wednesday afternoon as dispute over contested land turned violent.
The Spokesperson for North Kyoga Regional Police, SP Patrick Jimmy Okema confirmed to the media that a case of arson, simple robbery, malicious damage and theft was logged at Namasale Police Station with several suspects pinned to be behind the attack.
He says the incident happened occurred on Monday, July 17, 2023, when locals armed with batons burnt several houses and looted property worth millions of shillings upon learning that a lady named Ms Juliet Katushabe was claiming ownership of the land.
According to SP Okema, the dispute over a large parcel of land measuring about 100 hectares in Bungu Cell, Namasale Town Council, is allegedly being fueled by local leaders, Ms Katushabe and some natives.
Police outlined the particulars of victims affected by the riot as; Acola Nekolina, 80, a resident of Market area in Namasale Town Council, Mugenyi Saulo, 25-year-old Muganda by tribe a driver and a resident of Seeta in Mukono District.
Others include; Ssenyonga David aged 32 years old a Muganda businessman, Apio Salume, Hadijja Alli a businesswoman, all residents of Namasale Town Council, Amari Daniel, the chairman Namasale landing site committee and the last victim as one Opio Geoffrey Pule, a businessman while others have not yet reported their cases are still expected to turn up at the police to report the same case.
On July 17, 2023, at around 08:00 hours in Namasale Town Council in Amolatar District, the Langi tribes staged an unauthorized demonstration protesting the alleged mediation meeting over the contested land in Namasale claimed by Ms Katushabe a Muruli from Nakasongola district. Katushabe avers that before the 1979 tribal war between the Langi’s and the Baruli’s her father had over 100 acres of land within the heart of Namasale Town Council.
Against this background, Ms Katushabe sought to reclaim the land through her lawyers from Eyotre & Co Advocates and the Kampala-based law firm wrote to the area LC 1 asking for a mediation meeting which was to take place on the 17th of July 2023 at Namasale Town Council headquarters.
However, this didn’t go well with the locals in the area who later staged a protest in an unauthorized manner( demonstration) which turned violent.
One of the victims of the attack, Nekolina Acola speaking to DailyExpress stated that the armed locals burn her grass-thatched house and killed all of her 12 goats before throwing them into the fire.
“The attackers, armed with sticks, came here and burnt my grass-thatched hut, destroying three bags of sesame (simsim) and groundnuts. They killed all my 12 goats and threw them into the fire one after the other. Other protesters were using goats’ legs to beat people,” Ms Acolina narrated.
Ms Judith Amiro, a 27-year-old businesswoman, explained how unknown people forcefully entered her house during the protest. They stole about Shs 800,000 and looted clothes she was selling worth Shs 200,000.
“They forced themselves into my house while I was with my child and started beating me seriously, alleging that I refused to join them in the demonstration. In the process, they picked all the clothes I was selling, including some money,” said Amiro.
Another victim, Mr David Senyonga, reported losing Shs11, 900 during the illegal protest.
“They came and started destroying things belonging to those dealing in fish at Namasale Landing Site, and when they reached mine, they destroyed my two refrigerators and television screen,” he said.
What police have said
SP Okema says the attackers started the demonstration by looting properties of the non-natives of Lango tribes and alleged collaborators of the Barulis. The looting later turned violent when the protesters started setting ablaze some houses.
“The Amolatar District Security Force including police officers was called upon to contain the situation but the rioters overpowered them, not until reinforcement was sent from the North Kyoga region and the situation was contained,” said Okema.
He added that statements have so far been recorded from victims and some witnesses at Amolatar CPS before condemning the barbaric action taken by the locals.
“We want to condemn very strongly this barbaric acts of illegality. Politicians should not politicized this matter but would have rather preached the gospel of peace and Unity “Okema Warned.
He assured the affected people that their complaints had been formally registered By Wednesday afternoon, the security team in the region led by the RPC North Kyoga, RDC Amolatar and detectives including the Scene of Crime Officer (SOCO) had visited the scene and documented the incident to aid in investigations.