Security

TOP STORY: ‘Security laxity’ blamed as ‘200 die’ in Acholi-Madi tribal clashes

(Last Updated On: 9 March 2024)

Gulu I The barbaric attacks and slaughters between some Madi and Acholi natives have left at least 200 people dead in cold blood in Apaa.

Hundreds have been injured and dozens remain missing with no clear trace of their whereabouts. Thousands of grass-thatched houses and other properties have burnt down since the tribal clashes started 12 years ago.

Michael Lakony is the LC5 chairman of Amuru district. In an interview with tndNews, he warned the government to “stop the barbaric killings” and not to “allow Madi to continue killing Acholi people living in Apaa enclave”.

On February 18, 2024, over 18 Acholi people, mostly women, were found dead with kids behind their backs.

The lack of security personnel in Apaa is driving the death of people; many are injured in the attacks seen as a revenge on Acholi whom Madi claim to be an inferior group of people.

tndNews Okot Lil Romeo found time and sat down with Lakony, discussing the attacks, among other issues.

Lakony said the land wrangle in Apaa is a result of “greed and bad heart from the government over the disputed land”. He claimed that the reported mineral deposit in the area of Apaa towns is what is “driving the attacks on Acholi people”.

“They (the government) are using Madi community as a tool to open ways to fulfil their interest,” the LC5 chairman asserted.

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“The army commander of the UPDF at 4 Division Brig. Gen. Michael Kabango and Battalion Commander 501 headed by Lt. Col. Kenneth Buruga Ahimbisbwe who control Amuru and Adjumani are being misinformed, that is why there is a different command on the issue of Apaa land conflict,” Lakony added.

Some months ago, the 4 Division army commander and the Battalion commander 501, made an assurance, saying more UPDF soldiers and Police personnel would be deployed along the route where the attacks on Acholi were launched.

Regular attacks always happen in Oyanga, Luru, and Acholi-ber parishes in Itirikwa sub-county, Amuru. Some months later, Col. Benard Rubainika Kashemeza, the former Brigade Commander of the 501 brigade was sacked and recalled to 4 Infantry Division headquarters in Gulu City where he is ‘locked up’ in the barracks, according to Lakony.

He was replaced by Lt. Col. Kenneth Buruga Ahimbisbwe.

Brig. Kabango commented to the locals at a gathering in Apaa Town on Tuesday, saying they have ‘registered negligence on the side of their security personnel and then decided to take action’.

Kabango noted that Col. Kashemeza and other officers who failed to do their job will be arraigned before the military court martial at the 4 Division to face charges. He added that local leaders, and community members who were involved in mobilizing people to commit crimes on the side of Madi and Acholi will also be prosecuted.

“More than 150 people died and many injured in an attack by the Madi community, but no proper investigations, no arrest took place to bring the culprits to justice by the government of Uganda; they are silent up to date,” Lakong said.

“Many local people in Apaa are sleeping in the bush fearing regular attacks by a barbaric Madi inferior group to launch another attack on them,” Lakony further disclosed.

Previously, Apaa town had a population of over 46,000 people. It is now nearing 80,000 people with ‘foreigners’ arriving and ‘carrying out businesses’ – according to the district chairman.

“The community is only benefiting from outreach health services being given to the local community,” the LC5 chairman replied when asked about basic services the community are enjoying.

“I would like to appeal to our brothers and sisters to be organized and not to panic during this hard situation. We have defeated the war between the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and UPDF (the government) for over 25 years and we are still alive.”

MP of Kilak South in Amuru, who also doubles as the Secretary General of Acholi Parliamentary Group, Gilbert Olanya, in a phone interview, accused the government of taking sides with the Madi community and using them to grab land to leave Acholi people in dilemma.

“On February 28, 2024, we wanted to raise the issue of Apaa on the floor of Parliament but unfortunately Speaker Anita Among deferred it to another day. We promised to meet the Speaker of Parliament again and table the matter before her.

“The issue of Apaa is our vow because the government is not interested in handling it, we are going to mobilize and organize our community to stop such barbaric killing of people in cold blood. 15 Acholi people have been arrested and charged with murder in Adjumani district, yet Madi people who are killing Acholi people have not been arrested up to date.

“We are going to stand with our people who are in Adjumani district who have been charged for murder as leaders of Acholi,” Olanya told tndNews.

Revelations

Okoya Charles is the LC1 chairman and doubles as the zonal leader of 36 villages in Apaa town. Last month, he said, they received information about the visit of the 4 Division Commander Brig Gen Kabango to Apaa.

As they mobilized the community to open the road that day [Monday, February 19, 2024], some Madi people informed one of the UPDF soldiers living nearby who came with a gun and put a roadblock stopping the Acholi people.

“When the Acholi community reported the incident to the 501 Battalion and Uganda Police Force, they came and stopped that army officer of Madi origin who had mounted an illegal roadblock.

“Later, the community proceeded with road work. However, the mob from the Madi community came and arrested three boda-boda men and tied them to trees, two women escaped and reported to some Acholi people who had moved a distance with the road work.

“When a report was made to them [Acholi people], they rushed to the scene and found three people who were arrested tied on trees. They were rescued, but Madi people who live around the area were beaten by Acholi mob in revenge.

“In fact, within two weeks of February, over 5 Acholi people were killed in cold blood during the escalating attacks by Madi people at a village north of Pabbo sub-county in Amuru district,” Okoya revealed.

According to Okoya, Madi people who attacked Acholi community in Apaa later came on a “rampant act” – “burning grass thatched hurts. 300 grass thatched houses were burned down by errant Madi in revenge”.

He added, “Weapons of Madi are transported by the government vehicles and motorcycles with UG number plates.” The “weapons”, Okoya said, are used for attacks on Acholi people. “They move openly without fears of security personnel in this village, none of them has been arrested yet to face justice.”

Okoya is appealing to the government for immediate response and actions over this “barbaric killing. “Otherwise, one day when we go to launch a revenge attack, they will not like it. The government must not take sides by arresting Acholi.”

James Mamawi is the MP of Adjumani East County. When tndNews contacted him for an interview, he disclosed that from what he knows, “the leaders from Acholi sub-region have been organizing people to attack our people in Apaa”.

“They don’t want to speak the truth but misinforming people that the area is in Apaa yet it is in Adjumani district.

“Even the map shows that Apaa is in Adjumani district. But Acholi MPs want to exercise their power to extend it up to their area. For us, we are not going to mobilize our people against people,” Mamawi said.

“As MPs from Adjumani, we have tried to raise the issues on the floor of Parliament; no response has been taken to discuss issues of Apaa. Even Acholi MPs have tried to raise the issues on the floor of Parliament, but the Speaker does not allow these issues to be discussed beyond their level, only the President can handle the matter.

“We shall not make any mistake of mobilizing our people to avenge, to attack our fellow Acholi community, it is against the law of Uganda to attack and take someone’s life.

The MP confirmed that over 50 local communities of Madi have so far been killed, so many are still missing and others are hospitalized after the barbaric attacks. “However, we are yet to establish the real numbers of the Madi community who lost lives from barbaric attacks.”

The tribal clashes broke out in 2012. It has since claimed many lives and properties

On September 16, 2023, West Nile elders under the West Nile Development Association headed by William Anyama sat in Adjumani. They called for a peaceful co-existence amid Apaa land conflict.

The Paramount Chief of Madi, Stephen Drani during the meeting noted that the killings were not in Apaa town, but about 50 kilometers deep North-west of Joker central forest reserve which is a protected area.

Also read: Madi Paramount Chief Drani Stephen remanded to Openzini prison

Okumu Ronald Reagan is the former MP of Aswa County. During the Kacoke Madit widely known as Gure me Pongdwongo” at Sir Samuel Baker School on December 27, 2023, narrated how Gen Moses Ali in 2009 called for a Gulu district council meeting and demanded it to pass a resolution to de-gazette Aswa Olilim and East Madi’s former game reserve.

However, he said Acholi district council rejected the proposed plan by Gen. Moses Ali. “But later he went to Adjumani district and called for the district council meeting where he convinced them and passed a resolution[s] which was adopted.

“Later, Gen Moses Ali went and tabled the Adjumani district council resolutions which were passed by the then 8th Parliament to be Wildlife Game Hunting ground which the government gave to Martin Bruce Wildlife Game Hunting ground.

Okumu alluded that the problem in Apaa is not the conflict between Madi community and Acholi community, but Gen Moses Ali who is instigating tribal conflict as a political tool.

“Madi and Acholi people have been living in Apaa, Elegu and Adjumani since time immemorial without conflict. Goons are causing deaths in Apaa between Acholi and Madi being hired by Gen Moses Ali,” Okumu revealed.

Kidega Michael is a security personnel in Gulu City. On Wednesday, February 28, 2024, he said Okoya [LC1 from Apaa] called him and disclosed that since Sunday [February, 25], people who had been killed by Madi people were still rotting in the bushes in Apaa and their families failed to collect the dead bodies.

“I was forced to contact Brigadier Gen Kabango Michael to allow the bodies of slain Acholi people to be taken for burial by their relatives because relatives have complained that Uganda Police Forces, UPDF officers refused to allow the corpse of those people to be removed from the bushes for burial.”

“However, Kabango responded that they are investigating those people who have been killed from Apaa….”

Okot John Amos is the MP of Agago North. He is the chairperson of Acholi Parliamentary Group. While addressing media at Northern Uganda Media Club, he said they had fresh information over the killing in Apaa, adding that many people are aware of the Apaa conflict, even the President is aware.

“…the killing in Apaa is continuing, about 8 villages being invaded by Madi inferior attackers: Kala cut, Acholi Ber, Rwot Oromo; Oyaga, Patira, Oloyo and Goro villages are facing regular attacks.

“They don’t attack trading centres, only target villages after which they burn grass thatched houses and later they will forcefully build their houses for settlements.

“Look at those people who are being killed with no response from the government because they are only interested in the land; they have left our people to face harassment from the UPDF yet they are to protect civilians and property.

“The MPs and locals from Acholi sub-region cannot reach Apaa to dig. It is our mandate to engage our voters, this shows that the government has an invisible hand on the issues of Apaa not to come to an end.”

Since 2012 when the Apaa incident started, he said more than 150 Acholi people have been killed which “indicates a massacre is happening in Amuru district”.

“The government should remove all UPDF soldiers and Police personnel pretending to be deployed in Apaa, all security apparatus are doing nothing, they are taking the side of the Madi community,” the APG chair noted.

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“All social sectors are not functioning in Apaa, no health facility, no education facilities. We request international bodies like the UNHCR, International Committee of Red Cross, and World Vision to come and rescue the situation in Apaa.

“As leaders of the Acholi community, we shall take a deeper step to meet leaders of Adjumani to have a discussion with them and resolve the matters.

“God is looking at those who are killing Acholi people, I don’t want to incite violence, don’t take the law into your hands, I want to appeal to the Acholi community for peace and harmony,” Okot sounded.

UPDF speaks

Captain Kato Ahmad Hassan is the PRO of the UPDF’s 4 Division in Gulu. During a press conference at NUMEC, Kato said they have made some reinforcements in the North of Pabbo to monitor the situation. “We appeal for further loyalty as we show normalcy.

“As UPDF, we appeal to both communities of Acholi and Madi living in Apaa to cease violence in all areas, we also request the people living in Apaa to cooperate and provide timely information to security to provide general security to areas until the violent matters are resolved by the government.”

In 2015, the then Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadega ruled that there should be a need to carry out a fact-finding mission before a resolution could be made and presented before Parliament.

Contested land in Apaa targets about 40 square kilometres being gazetted as East Madi Wildlife Reserve and is under the management of Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). Another part of the land, Joker Central Forest Reserve is also being gazetted by the National Forest Authority (NFA) in Adjumani district, not in Apaa town.

For many years, efforts by the government, political, religious, and traditional leaders to quell the tension between the communities of Acholi and Madi have not yielded any fruit. The struggle continued last year in August.

In the same year, President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni commissioned the Judicial Commission of Inquiry headed by former Chief Justice Bart Katureebe to combat Apaa land conflict.

The commission which is being seen as a last resort to solve the land conflict and deaths has yet to show results as attacks, killings and destructions of properties continue.

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