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Over 100 Defendants Storm Kitgum Magistrates Court in Land Case

The case stems from a suit filed last year by Louis Odongo and Company Advocates on behalf of 135 clan members of Panyigi-ceng over a contested land in Tim dwar Palukok.
Some of the defendants who turned up for scheduling conference over a contested land case in Namokora Subcounty in Kitgum District

Audio 2

The Kitgum Chief Magistrate Elizabeth Akullo Ogwal has adjourned a scheduling conference in a land case between rivalling clans in Namokora Town Council, Kitgum District after hundreds of defendants in the case thronged the court premises.

The court had scheduled Wednesday to understand the issues surrounding a contested land being claimed by the rival clans in Namokora Sub-county in Kitgum District. It stems from a suit filed last year by Louis Odongo and Company Advocates on behalf of 135 clan members of Panyigi-ceng over a contested land in Tim dwar Palukok.

The land in question measures approximately 2.38 square kilometres and covers the villages of Ladwogi and Kweyo, formerly Lipan controlled hunting ground.

The plaintiff had initially sued a total of 117 people from the clans of Pagwok, Bura, Melong, Okuda, Gemo, Purwayo, Panyigi-ceng, and Pogoda seeking for declaration of the land they are settled on claiming it’s their customary land. Three of the defendants however passed away while one is in custody.

However, when the matter came up in court, a total of 113 defendants summoned in the case showed up in person, creating unconducive ground in the fight against covid-19. For several minutes the small court premises remained crowded with hundreds of the defendants leaving court officials and some court users puzzled.

The defendants comprised of mostly elderly women and men arrived in court in two hired Fuso lorry trucks from Namokora Town Council to attend the court case.

But in a bid to conform to the covid-19 standard operating procedures, only 20 of the defendants along with their lead lawyer Silver Oyet of Silver Oyet and Co Advocates were selected to enter the chief Magistrates Courtroom.

Oyet in his submission moved the court to be given leave to have a fewer number of people to represent the defendants in court and also allow some relatives to be brought to replace the missing. He reasoned that it would be inappropriate and health hazards to have all defendants attend the court case in person.

He says that the chief Magistrate agreed to his prayers adding that only six people have been selected to represent the 113 defendants in the case.

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They include Nelson Oruma, Joseph Bob Oneka, Milton Anywar Ocira, Geoffrey Ocan, Livingstone Okwera, and Erinasan Okumu. The defence lawyer is expected to apply formally in court for representative order to be granted.

Meanwhile, the 135 plaintiffs are being represented by five people in the case after being granted a representative order in June last year. They are Dixson Otto Baffield, Michael Olanya, John Anyoti, Willy Opwonya and Sabina Auma. 

The Chief Magistrate also struck out the names of those who died and another person in custody from the court proceeding on the side of the defendants and ordered for the addition of those who would want to replace their relatives.

She consequently adjourned the matter till May 5th May this year when she will start hearing it.

Geoffrey Ocan Jomo, an elderly resident of Pagwok parish says the land in question was formerly a hunting ground but was abandoned during insurgencies in 1986.  He notes that it was until 2010 when locals returned to the land after guns fell silent following the two-decade Lord’s Resistance War before the land was divided among several clans in 2011.

Luo

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