NWOYA – The UPDF Force Reserve Force commander, Gen Charles Otema Awany, has accused the Commission of Inquiry into Land Matters of being emotional and biased in its work.
In an interview on Tuesday, Gen Otema said by ordering for his arrest, the intention of the Commission led by Justice Catherine Bamugemereire is to humiliate him.
On August 3, Justice Bamugemereire ordered the arrest of Gen Otema after he failed to reappear before the Commission to explain accusations of land grabbing and violent eviction of more than 6,000 families in Purongo and Got Apwoyo sub-counties in Nwoya District.
However, Gen Otema said Justice Bamugemereire acted on emotion and rumours to summon him over the land wrangle, adding that he is not to blame. It is alleged that between March and April 2018, Gen Otema deployed armed soldiers and forcefully evicted hundreds of families from their ancestral grounds.
However, Gen Otema explained that the land he is accused of grabbing or evicting people from is public land and decisions over it entirely rests on the district authorities.
The General’s remarks come after the Acholi cultural institution accused the Commission of Inquiry into Land Matters of attempting to resurrect old tribal clashes between the Acholi and Alur-Jonam people through prosecution of Gen Otema over land grabbing.
Mr Ambrose Olaa, the institution’s prime minister, in a letter to Justice Bamugemereire, said the people who accuse Gen Otema of evicting them belong to Jonam-Alur ethnic group and are inhabitants of Nebbi District in West Nile.
“The immediate question is; Why are the Jonam-Alur claiming to have customary land in Nwoya District in Acholi [sub-region]? As the custodians of Acholi heritage, Ker Kwaro Acholi cannot afford to be a bystander on a matter that threatens Acholi heritage and identity.”
The letter is also copied to the President and the Prime Minister.
“This will surely lead to more violence. We feel that the matter before the Commission is much bigger than the allegations against Maj Gen Otema and it cannot be conclusively resolved by singling out Gen Otema…” the letter adds.
“You should look at Maj Gen Otema as an Acholi with legitimate interests in the land, not as a soldier. We are aware that this is a conspiracy to intimidate the Acholi because if he (Maj Gen Otema) is isolated, it becomes easier to grab land belonging to other less ranking Acholi in Nwoya.”