One shot dead, two injured as govt forcefully evicts Apaa land occupants

Sunday March 25 2018

Apaa land resident

Local leaders have identified the deceased as Python Okello, 26, while one of the injured was only identified as Okello, all residents of Acholi ber in Labala parish. FILE PHOTO 

By JULIUS OCUNGI

One person has been shot dead and two others serious injured following a forceful eviction of Apaa land occupants in Itirikwa Sub-County, Adjumani District.

The eviction exercise was conducted by the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) soldiers on Friday.

This came at the heels of an eviction order issued by the Uganda wildlife Authority and National Forestry Authority demanding that over 15,000 residents occupying the land to vacate or be thrown out forcefully.
Both NFA and UWA alleges that the residents are illegally settled in the Zoka central Forest Reserve and East Madi wildlife Game reserve respectively.

Local leaders have identified the deceased as Python Okello, 26, while one of the injured was only identified as Okello, all residents of Acholi ber in Labala parish.
Mr Patrick Okwonga, the deceased's uncle told Daily Monitor in an interview on Saturday that his nephew was shot by people who were putting on UPDF uniforms.
He said the deceased was shot dead at about 4: 00pm while they were fleeing from UPDF soldiers who were commanding the eviction in the area.

"The soldiers came in the morning (Friday 23rd) and begun setting ablaze houses belonging to locals while telling them to vacate the area. When they reached my nephew's residence, they used live bullets at a group that were fleeing," Mr Okwonga said.
He alleges that a total of 62 huts have been set ablaze by those carrying out the eviction exercise since March 16.
"We are living in fear at the moment, our properties and food crops have been destroyed in the eviction operations. We want government to consider us as human beings, we have suffered enough," Mr Okwonga said.

How it happened
Ms Jennifer Akumu, the deceased’s wife, said the incident happened when they had just returned from the garden.

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"We returned from the garden and started preparing lunch, but as we were about to start eating, some men dressed in army uniforms approached us and demanded that we should sit down, but we got up because we were terrified," she said.
She added that, "As we got up, the soldiers cocked their guns and when we started running they fired several bullets and shot my husband. We hid in the bush but when we returned, we found his body lying near the kitchen.

Ms Akumu said her four-year-old daughter, Eunice Lamara, has gone missing since the incident.
"I haven't been able to locate my daughter since then, I don't know whether she is alive or not," she said.
Ms Akumu said the soldiers also looted household properties including chicken, maize and beans before setting ablaze two of their grass thatched huts.

The Kilak North Member of Parliament Mr Anthony Akol regretted the incident in an interview with the Daily Monitor.

He said the attack against the locals came at a time the matter was being heard in the Gulu High Court, which is a violation of court’s mandate.
"It's unfortunate, no one has been told about the eviction, they cannot take orders from people of Adjumani, our issues are still in court and government should have respected it," Mr Akol said.
Efforts to get comments from the Fourth Division Army Commander, Brig Emmanuel Kanyesigye, were futile as he refused to speak to this reporter.
editorial@ug.nationmedia.com

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