UPDF Accused of Looting Apaa Residents During Land Eviction
By Denis Otim
Residents occupying the contested Apaa land in Itirikwa Sub-county Adjumani district have accused Uganda Peoples Defense Forces (UPDF) soldiers of looting food crops and livestock from several homesteads.
The accusation comes in the wake of a forceful eviction operation conducted by UPDF soldiers in Acholi Ber Village in Labala parish, about 22 kilometers from Apaa trading center over the weekend.
Korina Acan, a resident of Acholi ber village told Northern Era Website in an interview that the soldiers have continued looting valuables in the area since Uganda Wild Life Authority (UWA) and National Forestry Authority (NFA) issued the eviction notices.
She noted that on Friday, while the soldiers carried out their violent exercise to throw out people, they took away goats, chicken and beans from several homesteads.
“We were just from the garden when eleven armed men dressed in UPDF uniforms came to my home. They had very many chicken, goats and sacks of beans they carried along with them. They told us to leave the area because we settled in a game reserve,” Acan said.
She added that after intimidating them, they set her three grass-thatched huts ablaze and looted two more goats from her place.
“The people who should protect us have become thieves… This is our land and we should be fairly treated by our government,” Acan added.
Richard Ocira, another resident of area said the soldiers looted three basins full of beans and two goats from his home on Friday, before torching four of his grass thatched huts.
He said when he questioned why they were trying to evict him and at the same time looting what should have been used for feeding his family, the soldiers instead beat him up.
“We want help from well-wishers. We need the government to discipline these errant soldiers who looted our property,” he said.
The Fourth Infantry Division Army Commander Brig Emmanuel Kanyesigye, confirmed the deployment of UPDF soldiers in Apaa, arguing that they are driving out encroachers of East Madi wildlife reserve and Zoka central forest reserve.
He however denied the allegations against the soldiers that are looting from locals describing it as false.
Government over the weekend deployed UPDF soldiers in the contested 40 square Kilometers land to start evicting locals residing in the area, after the ultimatum they were given by UWA and NFA, expired.
UWA and NFA officials maintain that the more than 15,000 people in the area are illegally settling on East Madi Wildlife Game Reserve and Zoka Central Forest Reserve, respectively.
The eviction left one dead, two others injured and more than 62 huts burnt.
In April 2015, UPDF soldiers deployed at Apaa while government commenced on demarcating the Amuru-Adjumani district boundaries were accused of looting food crops and brutality against the locals occupying the land.