Agnes Ameede, the vice chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on East Africa Community is heading the six member select committee. She told URN that they interested in uncovering evidence of settlement as well as ownership of the area. She says they are looking for evidence such as ancestral graves, graduated tax tickets of those claiming to have occupied the area and land registration certificates amongst others.
The committee of Parliament conducting fresh investigations into
prolonged Apaa land dispute has started investigations.
The MPs will on Wednesday inspect evidence of old settlement in
the area in view of establishing whether humans occupied the area in the 1970s
after President Idi Amin de-gazetted it for human settlement.
Agnes Ameede, the vice chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee
on East Africa Community is heading the six-member select committee. She says
that they are interested in uncovering evidence of settlement as well as
ownership of the area.
Ameede says they are looking for evidence such as ancestral
graves, graduated tax tickets of those claiming to have occupied the area and
land registration certificates amongst others.
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Ameede says the committee commenced its investigations from
Kampala by speaking to amongst others the Prime Minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda,
the Ministers for Lands and tourism as well as members of the civil society
organizations and the Acholi and Madi Parliamentary caucus.
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This is the second time Parliament is trying to investigate the
Apaa land conflict which has lasted for 17 years with at least 18 casualties
and scores of properties destroyed in series of spates of forceful evictions.
In the ninth Parliament, a similar investigation was crippled by a court
injunction sought by leaders and residents of Apaa Township.
Residents told the committee that last week Uganda Wildlife
Authority-UWA issued fresh eviction notice seeking to demolish their market
where they trade with their Madi neighbours to escalate the conflict.
Ameede says it is regrettable that parallel eviction orders are
being issued in the area from parallel institutions as Parliament probes into
the conflict. She says they will write back to Speaker of Parliament to prevail
over such evictions until the committee concludes its investigations.
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The other members of the committee constituted on March 3rd are
Workers MP Margaret Rwabushajja, Makindye Ssabagabo Municipality MP Emmanuel
Ssempala Kigozi, Kyaka South MP Jackson Kafuuzi Karugaba, Mukono County South
MP Johnson Muyanja Ssenyonga and Sizomu Gershom Rabbi Wambede (Bungokho County
Early this year, a presidential committee consisting of 16 representatives of
the affected communities probed three proposed options for resolving the
dispute outlined by President Yoweri Museveni. Their report prompted Cabinet to
opt for 10 Million shillings Compensation to each of the affected residents and
resettlement to another area.
MP Ameede says her committee is independent to the Presidential
Committee which concluded its work recently. She says the findings of her
committee will directly inform Parliament on the developments in Apaa Township
after government and members of parliaments from the affected areas lied to
Parliament about the dispute.
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On Monday the Committee interfaced with more than 200 residents of
the affected area alongside Amuru district leaders from Amuru Community Hall in
Amuru Town Council. They interviewed several residents about the conflict, its
causes and their proposals to resolve the conflict.
The Committee heard that Parliament gazetted the area wildlife
conservation while its occupants were in camps for internally displaced
persons’ camps. They then probed the residents on probability of government
formalizing the acquisition by way of fresh negotiation, to which residents
Michael Lakony, the Amuru district chairperson asked parliament to
prevail over government to have the area as an agriculture industrial park rather
than a conservation area.
Lakony said establishment of wildlife conservation will
disenfranchise residents of the area from lucrative economic potentials for
propelling the country to a middle-income economy.
Geoffrey Omony, the Labala Parish LC3 Councillor presented a memorandum of the
residents to the parliamentary committee. In the Memorandum, the residents
rejected any planned move to compensate and relocate them from the area.
Agnes Linda Auma, the Amuru resident district commissioner told
the committee that Amuru district local government is stuck with three consignments
of assorted drugs for Apaa Health centre II in its health department after UWA evicted
health workers from the area.
The select committee has already heard testimonies from members of
the Acholi Parliamentary Group, West Nile Parliamentary Group, Office of the
Prime Minister as well as the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development
and that of Tourism from Kampala.
The major disputes around Apaa Township relate to its ownership,
economic land use for settlement or wildlife conservation, geographical
boundaries of Amuru and Adjumani districts after the area measuring about 287
square kilometres was controversially declared a conservation area in 2002.
UWA claims that Parliament gazetted the area, a Wildlife reserve,
after Adjumani district local government declared it as part of East Madi Game
Reserve. Amuru district challenged the decision in Court.
Local government Minister Tom Butime also declared the area part
of Adjumani district in October 2017. Since then inter-district boundary mark
stone has been erected heavily guarded by soldiers of Uganda People’s Defense
Forces (UPDF) and personnel of Uganda Police Force – UPF.