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Soldiers Deployed at Aswa Ranch Accused of Extorting Money from Locals

Rose Aloyo, a resident of Aringoyon village says that in December 2021, she requested the village chairperson to allow her to cut trees and burn charcoal to raise fees for her six children and he accepted. But when she went to start the work, the soldiers deployed to guard the ranch asked her to pay 270,000 Shillings before felling trees, plus 20,000 Shillings every day as fees for the machine she was going to use.
25 Jan 2022 14:33

Audio 8

Soldiers guarding Aswa Ranch in Pader district have been accused of extorting money from locals to allow them to deal in the charcoal business.

Aswa ranch is one of the state-owned ranches with about 1,300 hybrid cattle being bred under the management of the National Animal Genetic Resources Centre and Data Bank, NAGRC&DB).

However, residents of Angagura, Laguti and Ajan sub-counties which border the ranch, are accusing soldiers deployed to guard the ranch of mistreating the locals and behaving unprofessionally. 

Rose Aloyo, a resident of Aringoyon village says that in December 2021, she requested the village chairperson to allow her to cut trees and burn charcoal to raise fees for her six children and he accepted. But when she went to start the work, the soldiers deployed to guard the ranch asked her to pay 270,000 Shillings before felling trees, plus 20,000 Shillings every day as fees for the machine she was going to use. 

//Cue in; “Ikare ma aceto…

Cue out…ci dong abiwango.”//

Aloyo says that although she hires the machine from someone else at 20,000 Shillings, she had to pay the soldiers again for the same machine. But even after paying the money to the soldiers, they kept calling her to the barracks, saying their commander needed her.  

She adds that even those who go to harvest crops in the area are asked to pay money before they can gain access to their fields.

//Cue in; “En ngat ma…

Cue out…ka okat oceti.”//    

Alice Atoo, another victim of the extortion, says last year, a soldier only identified as Tiger asked her to pay 250,000 Shillings before taking her charcoal, or else he would shoot her son to death. According to Atoo, the soldier went ahead and tied up her son, took him to the detach, and ordered her to follow them there, where she was asked to pay more money.  

She says they were only left to go when she told the soldiers to take them to the police instead because she did not have any more money. 

//Cue in; Imwaka mukati…

Cue out…wel madongo keken.”//

Hajj Ojara Oling, a maker of mortars and pestle, says one time a soldier from the ranch found him cutting a tree and asked him to pay 10,000 Shillings for cutting the tree, an amount twice the price of mortar and pestle.

Margaret Abwola, the councillor III Burlobo B, says the most affected people are in Burlonyo and Pungole parishes in Angagura sub-county. Abwola says the soldiers keep moving with guns in the community, which is causing fear in the community, who cannot stay out in the evening.  

//Cue in; “Joni ikare ma… 

Cue out…ki machine.”//

The LCIII Chairman of Angagura sub-county, Stephen Freddie Okello, says the action of extorting money from charcoal dealers is affecting the amount of revenue collected by the sub-county. He says when the sub-county revenue collectors asked for money from dealers in charcoal, they say they have already paid with the soldiers.

//Cue in; “Koko m acel…

Cue out…wan oculo kwija.”//

Okello says the soldiers also move with guns in drinking joints and give them to civilians to keep, while they indulge in drinking alcohol. He says the soldiers play with their guns within the community, including dissembling and assembling them putting lives at risk.

//Cue in; “Lok me aryo…

Cue out…ci gin dok kwede.”//  

Okello says that although he raised the issue with the manager of the ranch and identified the implicated soldiers, one of them started threatening the community accusing locals of stealing parts of his guns.  

//Cue in; Nino enoni…

Cue out…joni odwoki.”//

David Ocan, the Minister of Constitutional Affairs at Payira Ker Kal Kwaro wonders why soldiers are being used to guard animals. According to Ocan, the soldiers are disturbing their community because there are idle, and should be taken to the battlefield.  

//Cue in; “Why are we using…

Cue out…in their own land?//

Godfrey Ocen, the acting officer in charge of the detach at Aswa Ranch says he was not aware of the complaints raised by the community. The LCV of Pader district, Fearless Obwoya, says he will ensure that the soldiers deployed to guard the ranch are all taken away within two weeks. He says he will hold a meeting with the leaders of the ranch today, Tuesday.   

 

//Cue in; “Gin matye ka time…

Cue out…gin odok tung gangi.”//