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How Over 40,000 Non-natives Entered Disputed Apaa :: Uganda Radionetwork

How Over 40,000 Non-natives Entered Disputed Apaa

Brig. Kabango told Uganda Radio Network in an interview Friday that illegal land acquisition in the areas of Apaa is the driving factor for the influx of non-natives.
Residents of Apaa Township attend a meeting on Tuesday December 5 at Apaa Primary School in Itirikwa Subcounty, Adjumani district.

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Security has revealed an estimated 40,000 illegal foreign settlers entered the disputed Apaa land in the past four months.

The Fourth Infantry Division Commander Brig. Michael Kabango disclosed that in just four months, the human population in the disputed area had shot to over 80,000 from only an estimated 40,000 people.

While Uganda Radio Network can’t independently verify these figures, Brig. Kabango notes that the majority of the new entrants into the disputed area are non-natives from either side of Acholi and Madi.

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Kabango’s statements follow the recent spate of clashes in the disputed Apaa area, which claimed the lives of six people, three of whom are from central Uganda and three others from Adjumani district.

Local leaders also reported that 11 people sustained injuries during the attacks while hundreds of grass-thatched huts were destroyed by unknown assailants in a conflict that has spanned for more than a decade.

Brig. Kabango told Uganda Radio Network in an interview on Friday that illegal land acquisition in the areas of Apaa is the driving factor for the influx of non-natives. 

According to Brig. Kabango, land is being sold and hired very cheaply to the non-natives whose interests are in carrying out charcoal and timber businesses while others are farming.

For instance, Brig Kabango says from their findings, the locals have been hiring out an acre of land at only 50,000 shillings to those interested in using the land for a year. He says the high returns over limited investments are a big pull factor for the population surge on the land.

However, on Tuesday, the army ordered all the non-natives occupying the areas of Apaa that fall on the gazetted East Madi Wildlife Reserve and Zoka Central Forest to vacate voluntarily. The eviction notice targets those who started occupying the area from 2014 to date.

Brig. Kabango says while the army hadn’t given a specific timeline for the encroachers to leave, the president had already issued directives that ban the illegal destruction of trees for charcoal and timber production in the North.

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Although President Museveni issued an executive order banning commercial charcoal production in North and Northeastern Uganda in March this year, the commercial production of charcoal has been ongoing in the disputed Apaa area under the watch of security.

Apaa land measuring approximately 827 sq km and under contention between the government, Amuru, and Adjumani districts, boasts of some fertile strip of land with abundant natural vegetation that has attracted illegal charcoal dealers from far and wide.

According to the Apaa village LCI Chairperson Charles Okoya, at least 15 box body trucks that carry between 150-250 bags of charcoal leave Apaa every day. He notes that out of the 36 villages in Apaa Township, only about seven haven't been affected by heavy tree felling for charcoal production.

Okoya also accused the Police of sidelining local leaders from monitoring the charcoal trade, a move he says has affected the implementation of Executive Order No. 3.

Hundreds of non-natives settled on the disputed land had by Monday started leaving the area voluntarily after the army sounded eviction notice.

Several of them, the majority being children and women were by Thursday still stuck in Gulu City after they ran out of money to facilitate their transportation out of the region.

Since the resurgence of violence in Apaa over the weekend, the army heavily deployed soldiers at the 501 brigade to restore peace and provide safety for the residents.

Uganda People’s Defence Forces Spokesperson Brig. Felix Kulaigye told Uganda Radio Network on Friday that the army is investigating the former Brigade Commander of the 501 Brigade Col. Bernard Rubainika Kashemeza over negligence in the recent attacks. Col. Kashemeza was sacked and replaced with Lt Col. Kenneth Buruga Ahimbisibwe.    

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