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Security Arrest 23 for Establishing Illegal Settlements in East Madi Wildlife Reserve

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Godfrey Opwonya Benson, the Apaa Township Defense Secretary told URN on Sunday that the operation followed a tipoff from the community about the strange activities taking place in the reserve.
Reeds that was being used by some of the encroachers to erect a makeshift structure. Photo by Emmy Daniel Ojara

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Security in Adjumani district is holding twenty-three people for illegally opening up settlements in East Madi Wildlife Reserve in Lulai sub-village in Apaa Township. A joint security team comprising police and the army rounded up the illegal occupants on Sunday afternoon and whisked them off to Juka Police Post.     

Godfrey Opwonya Benson, the Apaa Township Defense Secretary told URN on Sunday that the operation followed a tipoff from the community about the strange activities taking place in the reserve. Opwonya explains that the suspects are part of the more than 200 people who had split into groups of about twenty and pitched camp in the game reserve for the last three days.  

//Cue in:’’gi cako dong…    

Cue out: …wa ni weng,’’//     

‘’They started about two-three days ago, they erected their makeshifts next to us. What they say is that the structures they have erected should not be demolished or they will come back and burn ours too.’’   

According to Opwonya, the occupants who claim to be from Adjumani Town Council, said that they decided to acquire land since the area is vast and seems abandoned.

David Okello, 57 a resident of Lulai Sub Village told URN that about eight occupants had by Saturday erected three makeshift structures with reeds and marked some trees.  

//Cue in: ‘’dong gin ma…  

Cue out:…yubu odi adek.’’//     

Geoffrey Acellam, another resident also says that another group of about twenty people also erected four makeshift structures in his area and started clearing trees for settlement. 

//Cue in: ‘’ ci ikare ma…    

Cue out: …tye I Juka.’’//   

    Translation

‘’When they came, we tried to mobilize as residents to meet them and find out why they are here. That was yesterday but today they told us that they had come to acquire land but local leaders and security intervened, apprehended and took them to Juka police post.’’     

He says that the new development triggered fears and panic among residents prompting them to alert security. By the time of filing this story, Ferdinand Severio Ojera Apaa Township General Secretary and member of the Security team said that officers at Juka Police Post were interrogating the 23 suspects.  

Peter Taban, the Adjumani Resident District Commissioner told URN that he was yet to get a report on the arrests. He, however, supports the arrest of the suspect, saying that Lulai Village is within a protected area.     The arrest comes amidst complaints from environmental and wildlife conservationists about the increased illegal settlements within protected areas. According to the government, Apaa Township sits in East Madi Wildlife Reserve and parts of Zoka Central Forest Reserve.

  However, residents in the area claim this is their ancestral land. Recently, Bashir Hangi, the Spokesperson of Uganda Wildlife Authority-UWA, says that they are finding it hard to control illegal settlements in East Madi Wildlife Reserve. He, however, said they intend to design a permanent strategy to end the vice.