Security in Adjumani
district is holding twenty-three people for illegally opening up settlements in
East Madi Wildlife Reserve in Lulai sub-village in Apaa Township. A joint security team comprising police and
the army rounded up the illegal occupants on Sunday afternoon and whisked them
off to Juka Police Post.
Godfrey Opwonya Benson, the Apaa Township Defense Secretary told URN on Sunday
that the operation followed a tipoff from the community about the strange
activities taking place in the reserve. Opwonya explains that the suspects are
part of the more than 200 people who had split into groups of about twenty and
pitched camp in the game reserve for the last three days.
//Cue in:’’gi cako dong…
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started about two-three days ago, they erected their makeshifts next to us. What
they say is that the structures they have erected should not be demolished or
they will come back and burn ours too.’’
According to Opwonya, the occupants who claim to be from Adjumani Town Council,
said that they decided to acquire land since the area is vast and seems
David Okello, 57 a resident of Lulai Sub Village told URN that about eight
occupants had by Saturday erected three makeshift structures with reeds and
marked some trees.
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Geoffrey Acellam, another resident also says that another group of about twenty
people also erected four makeshift structures in his area and started clearing
trees for settlement.
//Cue in: ‘’ ci ikare ma…
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‘’When they came, we tried to mobilize as
residents to meet them and find out why they are here. That was yesterday but
today they told us that they had come to acquire land but local leaders and
security intervened, apprehended and took them to Juka police post.’’
He says that the new development triggered fears and panic among residents
prompting them to alert security. By the time of filing this story, Ferdinand
Severio Ojera Apaa Township General Secretary and member of the Security team said that officers at Juka Police Post were interrogating the 23 suspects.
Peter Taban, the Adjumani Resident District Commissioner told URN that he was
yet to get a report on the arrests. He, however, supports the arrest of the
suspect, saying that Lulai Village is within a protected area.
The arrest comes
amidst complaints from environmental and wildlife conservationists about the
increased illegal settlements within protected areas. According to the
government, Apaa Township sits in East Madi Wildlife Reserve and parts of Zoka
Central Forest Reserve.
However, residents in
the area claim this is their ancestral land. Recently, Bashir Hangi, the Spokesperson of Uganda
Wildlife Authority-UWA, says that they are finding it hard to
control illegal settlements in East Madi Wildlife Reserve. He, however, said
they intend to design a permanent strategy to end the vice.