Women undress before Migereko, Gen Aronda

Elderly women strip naked before Gen Aronda, Mr Migereko and a team of land surveyors as they visited the disputed boundary area between Amuru and Adjumani districts on Thursday. Insert are Internal Affairs minister Aronda Nyakairima (L) and Lands Minister Daudi Migereko (R). Photo by Stephen Okello

What you need to know:

Strange welcome. Lands Minister Daudi Migereko and Internal Affairs Minister Gen Aronda Nyakairima had visited a disputed boundary area in northern Uganda to resolve the conflict.

AMURU- The scene at a disputed area in Apaa parish where a mark stone was to be erected to demarcate the boundary between Amuru and Adjumani districts turned ugly on Thursday when women protesters undressed before minister for Lands Daudi Migereko and Internal Affairs minister Gen Aronda Nyakairima who had visited the contested land.

Hundreds of residents of Apaa in Pabbo Sub-county in Amuru district sombrely waited for the ministers until about 3pm when the latter arrived.

The duo arrived at the sight of naked elderly women sitting on Apaa junction and yelling out traditional slogans condemning the boundary demarcations.
The women said the demarcation is a move to push them out of their ancestral land.

“We were born on this land, where will we the elderly mothers go to. Why is the government targeting our land, why why…?” they shouted in unison and as others wailed unceasingly at the top of their voices.

Overwhelmed by the sight of sobbing residents and naked women, Mr Migereko broke down and let out a gush of tears.

Gen Aronda, who appeared unshaken, stood motionlessly looking in different directions to avoid eye contact with the nudity.

Migereko and Aronda who were accompanied by a team of surveyors from the Lands ministry had visited the disputed area in Amuru district to sensitise the residents on the government’s intention to demarcate the boundary between the two districts.

The 40 square kilometre contested land has also over the years been claimed by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), which says it is a game reserve.
Mr Migereko later regained composure and addressed the residents and assured them that the government has no ill-motive to take away their land.

“We don’t have any bad intention to take this land away from the people of Amuru. No, no, we had just wanted to make sure the boundary is clearly demarcated to stop disputes between the two tribes in Madi and Acholi at the disputed boundary,” said, adding: “We want to assure you that we won’t arrest anyone, but as government we have come here to execute our job and we have had series of meetings with the leadership in Acholi assuring them that no one will carry away their land.”

Way forward
He later announced that they had cancelled the erection of the boundary mark stones. He said they would meet the Prime Minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda and the Acholi Parliamentary Group and Adjumani district leaders for further discussion on the matter.

Gen Aronda said there had been a miscommunication between the government officials and residents.

“We need to clarify this boundary conflict before the government can demarcate the land separating Adjumani and Amuru. I clearly want the locals to tell me where the boundary lies. If there is any disagreement, the community should remain peaceful,” said Gen Aronda.

Release of suspects
He, however, ordered police and the army to be withdrawn from Apaa immediately. He ordered the release of people who were arrested and said those whose properties were destroyed by security personnel would be compensated.

The army and police had camped in the disputed land for two weeks claiming security reasons to ensure peaceful demarcation of the boundary.

Kilak County MP Mr Gilbert Olanya applauded the ministers’ decision to cancel the boundary demarcation exercise and withdrawal of police and soldiers from the area.

In 2012, the residents were evicted from Apaa by UWA officials and taken to Pabbo Sub-county.