Ugandan Government Officials Tussle with Apaa Residents

By James Eriku & Martin Okudi                                                                                      29 August, 2011
 
Amuru — Three senior government ministers were caught up in chaos that erupted when the tour they took to identify the boundaries of East Madi game reserve that borders Amuru District turned rowdy.
Residents of the disputed Apaa area, surrounded ministers Prof Ephraim Kamuntu of tourism, his deputy Agnes Egunyu and Third deputy Prime Minister, Moses Ali at about 6pm on Saturday, demanding to know why they had a map and a Geographical Positioning System.
 
The drama that was turning more violent forced the police and Uganda Wildlife Authority warders to fire live bullets and teargas to disperse the people who had already started pelting the eleven vehicles in the ministers' convoy with stones. Three people were injured while 24 others had their eye sight affected by teargas.

Minister Kamuntu, who had a botched consultative meeting with the same residents last month on how to relocate them, said they only wanted the people to understand that they encroached on the reserve but the government could help them find alternative settlement. "The law is very clear, game reserves are meant for animals not human beings who have representatives in the Parliament, " Mr Kamuntu said.

The minister added that the area was gazetted as a reserve by an Act of Parliament several years ago. But leaders of the district, however, maintained that the Apaa area was de-gazetted in 2002 making their settlement in the area, legal.
 
Kilak Member of Parliament Gilbert Olanya, said they are ready to defend the people's land. "Even if it means telling them to use any kind of defence mechanism," he said, adding that the ministers are to blame for the Friday fracas since they did not inform the locals of their visit. Mr Justino Okot, the area chairperson, said his people now live in fear of being attacked by the warders as has been the case in the past months where residents lost several household items.

Meanwhile, Adjumani Chairman Nixon Owole following the clashes, said although Apaa is seven kilometers away from his district, he is directing for a halt on bilateral trade between his people and Apaa residents as a security measure.

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