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200 Apaa residents seek refuge at UN office

MP Anthony Akol addressing journalists at the UN office gate in Gulu town.(Photo by David Okema)

GULU – Over 200 people from Apaa this morning stormed the United Nations regional office of in Gulu seeking refuge from the brutality and forceful eviction happening in their area.

In a letter to The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid Raad Al Hussein, the residents claim that since 2011 the Uganda

Peoples Defence Force and the Uganda Police Force have been violently evicting people, maiming and killing others. They said the forces also burn houses and loot from the very population they are supposed to protect.

Sylvester Odoki, LC1 Acholi Ber, who this reporter found outside the UN Human Rights premises in Gulu, said the people have sought refuge there hoping to get protection and redress in the matter.

The letter says; “At a time when the government has received international praise for providing land to refugees fleeing from conflict in the neighbouring countries, it is a disgrace that the same government is permitted to seize land from its citizens who are still struggling to recover from the two decades of war.”

In the same letter they call upon, Prince Hussein to mobilise UN staff including representatives from embassies of Sweden, Norway, Netherlands, Ireland, Germany, United States, United Kingdom, and the European Union to meet with them in Gulu to hear their testimonies.

They also called upon the UN to investigate abuse on housing and property rights of the people of Apaa and to directly engage the Ugandan government and office of the President regarding their plight.

In the letter the residents have demanded for a complete and immediate call off of all attacks on the people of Apaa, and also called for respect of the 2012 court injunction barring eviction of the residents from their land.

Anthony Akol, the area Member of Parliament said the people of Apaa are left in confusion because the evictions continue even after Parliament ruled that no eviction should take place there and court put an injunction restraining the government, UWA and the Adjumani local government administration from removing people from that area.

Press attempt to access the UN compound where the Apaa residents are camped in Gulu. (Photo by David Okema)

“They continue to evict them, their houses are burnt down, property looted and they are saying if nothing can happen with the government system, the UN should come [in] because their human rights are being violated, yet the government that should protect them is not acting.”

They are unconfirmed reports claiming that about 23 people have been killed in the Apaa conflicts, with over 800 houses burnt and unspecified amount of property including food items and household property looted by people dressed in UPDF uniform.

The Amuru District Chairman, Michael Lakony, said his leadership had exhausted avenues of stop the vices and that it is good that the people chose to camp at the UN offices.

“The over 200 section of people representing over 26,000 people living in Apaa have done wonders, because time and again we have been reporting to government regarding the brutality, displacement but failed to [yield any fruits],” he said.

The Gulu Resident District Commissioner, Major Santo Okot Lapolo said the government will intervene, “Government is working with the UN to understand the plight of the people in Apaa but there must be something that triggered the event. It’s not UPDF evicting people, those are just allegations”, he said.

Major Lapolo confirmed receiving a Memorandum written by the people of Apaa addressed to President Museveni and said he will forward it soon.

Since the camping, leaders and other prominent residents have gone to talk to the people at the UN compound. Among those is; Gulu District Woman Member of Parliament, Betty Aol Ocan and Aruu South Member of Parliament, Lucy Aciro Otim.

Apaa land is estimated to be 40 square kilometres and it was recently declared to be part of Adjumani by the minister of Local government Tom Butime, contradicting the colonial map which indicates that Apaa is in Amuru district, with the majority of inhabitants being Acholi.

 

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