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Conservationists Want Apaa Market Closed for Illegally Operating in Protected Areas

Both NFA and UWA say that the market is located in the protected areas of Zoka Central Forest Reserve and the East Madi Wildlife Reserve and argue that it is threatening the two natural resources.
Stabex Petrol Station in Apaa Trading Centre. Photo by Emmy Daniel Ojara

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Wildlife and environmental conservationists are demanding the closure of Apaa Market in Itirikwa Sub County, Adjumani district for illegally operating in protected areas.

The conservationists comprising the Environmental Police Protection Unit, Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), environmental pressure group ‘’Friends of Zoka’’ and the National Forestry Authority (NFA) say that the existence of the market is fuelling the destruction of trees in Zoka Central Forest Reserve and illegal human activities on the East Madi Wildlife reserve.   

Apaa market has existed for more than 10 years has over 1,500 vendors and draws more than 4,000 traders during its weekly market days on Tuesday and Thursday. The market is situated in the disputed Apaa Township located in Itirikwa Sub County which borders Adjumani and Amuru districts.   

Both NFA and UWA say that the market is located in the protected areas of Zoka Central Forest Reserve and the East Madi Wildlife Reserve and argue that it is threatening the two natural resources.   

Simon Peter Okoshi, the Commandant Environmental Police Protection Unit says that there is an increase in illegal activities in terms of charcoal burning, construction of illegal structures and logging within the Zoka Central Forest Reserve.   

He largely attributes the illegal activities to the existence of the market which he says is a hub for the illicit trading in forest products, drawing traders from as far as Central Uganda, Gulu City, Oyam district and parts of West Nile.  

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Hanji Bashir the UWA Spokesperson says that the market is situated within the East Madi Wildlife Reserve adding that plans are underway to have it closed and its occupants evicted.   

Byron Oguzu, the Forest Supervisor for West Nile added that the closure of the Apaa market is the only lasting and workable solution to the destruction of forest in the area. 

He explained that their efforts to stop the destruction of trees in the area have been rendered helpless due to continued occupation by people in the area.   

Ben Anyama, the Adjumani LCV Chairperson says that the district is set to hold meetings with all stakeholders and the conservationists to relocate the Apaa market from the protected area to Zoka Trading Centre which is about ten kilometres away from the protected areas.    

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He however noted that the market is not remitting any revenue to Adjumani district but instead to Pabbo Sub County in Amuru district. But Alfred Labalpiny the Pabbo Sub County Chairperson says that the market is not registered and cannot be tendered. 

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In 2019, Adjumani district, UWA and NFA failed to close Apaa Market and relocate its vendors to Zoka Trading Centre which is said to be outside the reserve.   

The Adjumani Resident District Commissioner Peter Taban blamed the failure on political interference and selfish interest from a section of people.  

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Charles Odong the Apaa Market Chairperson has maintained that the Apaa market is not in a protected area but situated on land belonging to the community adding that they are not willing to vacate.    

Last week URN visited Apaa Township which is said to be in the East Madi Wildlife Reserve and parts of Zoka Central Forest and discovered that a petrol station belonging to Stabex and a telecommunication mast belonging to MTN-Uganda had been erected in the area.