Minerals Driving Apaa Evictions- MP Akol
By Denis Otim
Kilak Member of Parliament, MP, Anthony Akol has alleged that government wants to evict residents of Apaa, because it intends to start exploring minerals in Apaa Parish, Zoka village.
Akol's claim follows fresh evcition threats by Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and National Forestry Authority, NFA, to the more than 15,000 residents in the contested Apaa land, to leave by end of this week or be forced.
UWA and NFA argue that the residents are occupying a protected East Madi Wildlife Game Reserve and Zoka central forest reserve respectively.
The 40 square kilometers land has been a cause of disputes between residents in Amuru and Adjumani districts who both say the land belongs to them.
In October last year, local Government Minister Tom Butime gave ownership of the contested land to Adjumani district, amid protests from Amuru residents, and leaders, who maintain that government has interest in the land because it is rich in minerals.
Akol claimed that recently they got samples of a rare and glittering stone believed to be a mineral within the areas of Acholi ber, Lukai and Patika all in Apaa, proving the area is “mineral rich”.
On Tuesday, the legislator showed journalists a sample of the glittering stone believed to be a precious mineral found within Apaa land recently.
He said the substance was discovered by a local hunter about 14 kilometers away from Apaa trading center last week.
“We now know the motives behind the planned evictions… We have got the evidence that the place is rich in minerals. This matter will be taken to parliament,” Akol said.
He also noted that the eviction threat is violating a court injunction issued by the Gulu resident Judge, Justice Vincent Okwanga, against further eviction of residents occupying the area.
Tony Olinga, the UWA commander for East Madi Wildlife Game reserve, however argued that no geological survey has been carried in the area by the Energy Ministry to prove the presence of any mineral. He therefore rubbished the MP’s report as a baseless concoction.
“This is a protected wildlife game reserve; there is no activity ongoing within it in regards to mineral exploration. We only know of people illegally settling there and we have since told them to voluntarily leave,” Olinga said.
Olinga reiterated the ultimatum, saying those who defy will be forced.
Byron Oguzu, the NFA sector Manager for Moyo and Adjumani district said an estimated 120 households have been encroaching on 300 hectares part of the forest land for cultivation.
Oguzu also dismissed claims that there are mineral deposits within Zoka forest reserve which government has interest in.
The Lands Minister Betty Amongi couldn’t be reached for a comment on this story by press time as she didn’t pick our repeated phone calls.
The Energy Ministry Spokesperson, Yusuf Masaba, told the Northern Era that the ministry has never carried any mineral survey in Apaa land.
Masaba said if the ministry is to conduct such geological surveys, the district leaders would be the first to get updated, and locals would also be informed and sensitized.
Boundary dispute between the Apaa and Adjumani residents intensified in June last year, leading to the death of 10 ten, mostly the Acholi, and several injured. More than 80 huts where also razed down.
In 2011, more than 4,000 locals residing in Apaa parish were evicted and dumped in Pabbo Sub County while several huts and crops were destroyed by UWA officials who claimed the locals were occupying a game reserve.