A coalition of civil society organizations in Gulu district is piling pressure on government and the United Nations to address the plight of the displaced Apaa residents.
The 244 residents are currently residents at the United Nations Compound in Gulu Town since July 11th following the escalation of tension over a chunk of land in Apaa pitying residents against Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and National Forestry Authority.
The fresh tension led to the killing of three residents prompted others to march to the UN offices in Gulu town where they have pitched camp. Now, a number of CSOs involved in human rights and democratic governance issues in Northern Uganda are demanding for justice for the affected people led by Gulu NGO Forum.
They include Human Rights Focus (HURIFO), African Center for Treatment of Torture Victims (ACTV), Caritas Gulu and Youth Movers Uganda. The others are Forum for Rights, Awareness and Monitoring Uganda (FORAMU), Legal Aid Project, Action Aid Uganda, Gulu Women Development and Globalization (GWEDG) and the Northern Uganda Human Rights Partnership (NUHRP).
The CSO says they are surprised that the United Nations Human Rights and government are silent over the plight of the displaced persons, thirteen days since they pitched camp at the United Nations Compound in Gulu Town.
Geoffrey Okello, the Coordinator of Gulu NGO Forum, says they want government and the United Nations to craft a lasting solution to the land dispute, which has led to human rights human rights violations.
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Okello says it is a pity that the petition the residents presented to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein has received lukewarm thirteen days later.
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Okello says the CSOs want the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to institute a human rights violation monitoring team to document violations in Apaa township should armed soldiers return to attack residents there.
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Geoffrey Odong, the Executive Director of Forum For Rights Awareness and Monitoring Uganda-FORAMU, says they are very concerned that even UNICEF and UN Women are silent about the plight of children and women displaced in the United Nations compound.
"Their silence has created avenues for speculation, which is why we need the United Nations to communicate clearly about the ongoing situation and what they are doing about it,” he stated.
Francis Odongyoo, the Executive Director of Human Rights Focus-HURIFO, says the rights of the distraught, distressed and displaced persons should be protected. Odongyoo says the escalation of the land dispute saw the burning of 844 huts belonging to residents leading to the displaced of more than 2,700 people.
George Pele Okumu, the Coordinator of Northern Uganda Human Rights Partnership, says the National Resistance Movement government should use its vast experience in dealing with serious national issues to resolve the crisis once and for all.
"The crisis of Apaa is a very small problem for the National Resistance Movement government. But why is it persisting? The peak of the crisis was in 2017 when residents were attacked using arrows and bows. Why the perpetrators can't be brought to justice?" he asked.
David Moses Okello, the Gulu Action Aid Cluster Manager, says they firmly support the continued stay of the displaced persons in United Nations Compound if their plight is not properly addressed.
Flora Aling, the Program Coordinator Youth Movers Uganda, says the dispute in Apaa has made it hard for civil society to take services there. She says the alliance will petition President Museveni to intervene in the conflict since Parliamentary and court injunction suspending eviction activities in the disputed areas have been violated with impunity.
The CSOs were addressing the media on Tuesday afternoon at Northern Uganda Media Club (NUMEC) Media Center in Gulu Town. Apaa Township is at the heart of a bitter dispute pitting Amuru district local government against Adjumani, Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and the National Forestry Authority (NFA).
UWA and NFA claim the areas form part of East Madi Wildlife Reserve gazetted by Parliament in 2002 and Zoka Central Forest Reserve respectively. Residents claim the areas are customary land they inherited from their ancestral parents.
Amuru district claims the area is under its control while Adjumani, which allocated the area for East Madi Wildlife Reserve says the area is under its control and the residents living in it should be pushed off the area to pave way for conservation.