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COVID-19 Restrictions Trigger Tension in Apaa Township

Anthony Ocaya, the Apaa Township LC II Chairperson told URN that a scuffle ensued after security rejected the demands by traders prompting residents to pelt them with stones claiming that they were segregating between the Acholis and Madi.
Amuru District Woman MP Lucy Akello recently adressing residents of Apaa
There is renewed tension between security and residents of Apaa Township in Adjumani district following the presidential directives aimed at containing a surge in COVID-19 infections. On Sunday President Museveni banned inter-district travels, communal and weekly markets as well as public gathering for 42 days in a bid to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the country.

Despite this, hundreds of traders on more than ten trucks from the West Nile region and neighboring districts of Gulu and Amuru and parts of Elegu border town tried to access the weekly Tuesday market in Apaa to buy produce and sell their merchandise. However, more than twenty heavily armed security personnel from Uganda People's Defense Force (UPDF) soldiers and police blocked the trucks from accessing Apaa market through Amuru district on grounds of contravening the ban on inter-district travel.  

The traders protested the decision and accused security of selective application of the directive because the traders from West Nile had been allowed in. The traders collected clubs and sticks and threatened to attack the security officers for the biased decision unless their counterparts from West Nile also expelled from the market.

Anthony Ocaya, the Apaa Township LC II Chairperson told URN that a scuffle ensued after security rejected the demands by traders prompting residents to pelt them with stones claiming that they were segregating between the Acholis and Madi. He said that it took the intervention of the local authorities to calm down the situation as both the security and residents were charging towards each other.  

Charles Odong, the Apaa market chairperson told URN that the residents were angered by what they termed as undermining the Acholi community as it has been the case since 2015 when the government declared that Apaa was in Adjumani district.  At least 1,253 market vendors had registered with Amuru local government to operate in the market before the ethnic conflict started in 2017.   

Wilson Acuma, a member of the Apaa local council asked the government to revise the boundary lest it continues provoking anger among the residents who have been in conflict over the ancestral ownership of the land.  He explained that the historical boundary between Amuru and Adjumani districts was at Juka bridge (Juka /Zoka means stop) which is more than 20 kilometers outside the contested area.   


However, a security officer in Apaa told URN on condition of anonymity that the restrictions on the border was prompted by the 2015 border demarcation by the Ministry of Local government, which indicated that Apaa Township is in Adjumani district.  The security source also explained that the trucks were blocked at Apaa junction because they were from other districts.

The Contested Apaa Land   

Elders in the contested area say that in 1911 the British drew administrative boundaries between West Nile and Acholi, in the current day Amuru and Adjumani districts.  Apaa, which measures approximately 20 square kilometers was reportedly infested by tsetse flies and was mainly used as a hunting ground for certain reasons including health.  But as time passed, the Uganda Game Department amended stator instrument Number 17 and gazetted a hunting area for licensed gun holders.   



However, this was revoked by then-President Idi Amin`s decree in March 1972. Stealthily, in 1973 a resolution was passed allowing residents to return and occupy the land, which they said was ancestrally owned.  As lives returned in the area, it was again disorganized by the 20-year Lord`s Resistance Army insurgency which forced many people to abandon the land and settle in camps.    

Consequently, in 2002 while people were in the camps, parliament gazetted the land into a protected area to promote tourism.  As the LRA war subsided, people started returning to the land but were blocked by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA).   Conflicts over the land sucked in Acholis in Amuru and their Madi neighbours in Adjumani, with each side claiming the land.

Tension escalated in 2015 when the government demarcated the area 8-kilometres into Adjumani district, a stretch extending from Juka Bridge. This escalated conflicts between the two tribes leading to loss of lives and properties. The deadly clashes attracted the attention of local leaders and government leading to the formation of a probe committee but to date, no solutions have been found.

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