AMURU/ADJUMANI- President Museveni at the weekend appointed Deputy Speaker of Parliament Jacob Oulanyah chair of a new committee formed to seek an everlasting solution to the Apaa land wrangles in Amuru and Adjumani districts.
Mr Oulanyah, who is also the Omoro County MP, replaces the Prime Minister, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, who the President appointed in August last year to head an eight-member committee from both Adjumani and Amuru to discuss his recommendations on ending the land impasse.
Dr Rugunda will now serve as Mr Oulanyah’s deputy on the new committee.
The new committee comprises first Deputy Prime Minister Moses Ali, minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees Hillary Onek, Lands minister Betty Amongi and Prof Ephraim Kamuntu, the Tourism minister.
Mr Oulanyah on Monday announced the new development on his Facebook page.
“When H.E Yoweri Kaguta Museveni came to Omoro on Saturday, I requested to have discussion with him and he granted me audience,”
After our meeting yesterday [Sunday], we had another meeting today with the Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda. We had very fruitful deliberations and the President announced a new committee on Apaa, which will be chaired by me and deputised by PM [Prime Minister],” he stated.
He noted that the committee will revisit and seek all the possible lasting solutions to ensure that the people of Apaa have peace.
“I call upon factions from both the Acholi and Madi that are fuelling conflict and disseminating wrong information to cease and work together towards ensuring that unity is forged so that our people live together,” Mr Oulanyah said.
His appointment comes five days after government pronounced its stand on the disputed Apaa land where it ordered the occupants to vacate.
Mr Museveni has now made a U-turn and appointed Mr Oulanyah.
Sources, who preferred anonymity in order to speak freely, told Daily Monitor that Mr Oulanyah at the weekend pleaded with the President to allow him a chance to lead the negotiations given his vast knowledge of the contested land.
The sources said the Deputy Speaker briefed the President that the genesis of the land was not the purported conflict between the two communities but was orchestrated by the 2002 motion moved in Parliament to degazette the land into a game reserve.
He also stated that the problem was worsened when the statutory instrument of Parliament came out in 2012, a decade later, when people were already settled on the said land.
Mr Museveni was reportedly convinced by Mr Oulanyah’s disclosure that unknown people, suspected to be from the Madi Community, erected a store in Zoka Centre where food stuffs were being stored.
Sources within the NRM party also intimidated to this newspaper that the President was prompted to pick on Mr Oulanyah following a briefing that a section of supporters from Acholi had threatened to boycott his planned visit to the sub-region.
Following failed negotiations involving political, religious and cultural leaders to bring an end to the conflict over the disputed Apaa land, a new face was brought in to bring an everlasting solution. Dr Rugunda’s appointment had brought confidence between the two parties, whose common goal was to have the longstanding impasse resolved given his success in previous negotiations between government and the Lord’s Resistance Army rebel leaders Joseph Kony.
However, five months down the road, the negotiation meetings hit a snag after both parties failed to reach a harmonised position on the recommendations by Mr Museveni.
This would later be followed by Cabinet decisions ordering more than 26,000 residents settled on the Apaa land to vacate the land, citing that its gazetted East Madi Wildlife Reserve located in Adjumani district.
The Prime Minister’s communication specialist, Mr Julius Mucunguzi, could neither confirm or deny that the premier was replaced.
“I cannot comment on that matter,” Mr Mucunguzi said yesterday.
MIXED REACTIONS OVER DEPUTY SPEAKER’S APPOINTMENT
Dr Daniel Komakech, the chairperson of the Acholi delegation, said is optimistic that the new team will deliver on their expectations.
Last month, Dr Komakech accused Dr Rugunda of failing the talks. “During the talks, we made our submissions open to be debated and discussed but the premier could not compel the Madi team to do the same as agreed. To date, we don’t know what their proposals contain.
Besides, he was too authoritative and kept making executive orders,” he said. The prime minister of Acholi Cultural Institution, Mr Ambrose Ola, said Mr Museveni’s decision to halt the evictions is vital.
“The earlier decision was going to worsen the situation. Let us hope that this committee listens to the people and comes up with better solutions to the people in the area that will see them live in peace,” he said.
Mr Michael Lakony, the Amuru District chairperson, said Mr Oulanyah’s appointment was a “tactical way of worsening the Apaa land conflict. Oulanyah comes from Acholi and in case he makes decisions that don’t favour the Acholi, he will be tagged as a traitor. The Madi people will on the other side blame him for taking sides if he comes out with positions that don’t favour them,” he said.
The Adjumani District chairperson, Mr James Leku, said: “For us the Madi team, we are ready to work with any government officials to see that the matter is settled peacefully,’’ he said.