Uganda: Military Orders Ugandan “Migrants” Out Of Disputed Appa Region–Or Face Evictions

By Okumu Livingstone

Photos: Stephen Langole\YouTube Screenshots

GULU CITY: WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 6, 2023–Uganda People’s Defense Forces UPDF, on Tuesday, December 5, 2023 issued a statement that 40,000 newcomer migrants in Apaa must leave, and not wait to be forcefully evicted.

Apaa is a contested enclave claimed by both the Madi and Acholi communities situated in the Adjumani and Amuru districts respectively. It is agriculturally viable and has since been attracting an influx of people from different parts of Uganda, now labelled as migrants. At the same time, Uganda Wildlife Authority claims the area has been gazetted a wildlife reserve.

It has been a hotbed of geopolitics involving the state, the Acholi and Madi communities and now the army has weighed in with the evictions.

The 4th UPDF Division commander Brig. General Michael Kabanda while addressing migrants who are believed to number 40,000 in Apaa says they should leave because they are part of the insecurity there. He gave exceptions to those who started staying in Apaa from 2014.

Brig. General Kabanda’s directive targeted the so called migrants who include Baganda from the Central region, the Basoga, Jo Padhola, Bagisu, Bagwere and the Iteso who hail from Eastern Uganda. Others are the Bakiga, Banyankole, Batooro and Banyoro who hail from Western Uganda.

Other migrants are said to be international ones from Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya, Burundi and D.R. Congo. The majority of these migrants claim to have bought land in Apaa, some of them engaged in massive commercial charcoal burning. It is said that those migrants are part of the people who gang up with the Madi against the Acholi community in Apaa.

The Brig. General gave a one-week ultimatum for the migrants to leave, saying after the one week they will be dealt with.

This incident follows in the heels of a massacre of an estimated 80  people killed in a tribal clash between Acholi community and Madi on Thursday, November 30, 2023.

Brig General Kabanda on Friday, November 8, 2023 while on impromptu visitation to Apaa village, as part of his routine duty fact finding mission, had his vehicle pelted with stones by the suspected migrants and Madi community. ‘The UPDF 4th Division Commander quietly passed the  groups of  people  in Apaa Trading Centre, but when his motorcades reached Oyanga village, it was plated with stones by the Madi community and aliens,” a source close to Brig. General Kabanda told the Black Star News.

Meanwhile on Wednesday, November 6, 2023 for the first time, Brig. Kabanda joined a 17-member Acholi Parliamentary Group (APG) to Apaa Trading Centre to find out what was happening on the ground. However, for years since the Ministry of Land planted mark stones indicating that Apaa is no longer in Acholi District in 2017, the APG members have been blocked from the road block 7 kilometers before the trading center.

How the attack of November 30, 2023 was carried out

On Thursday, November 30, 2023, the Acholi community living in Acholi Ber, after learning of the planned attack by the Madi community, in the night laid ambushes stressing for two kilometers. The Madi community came to attack them, not knowing they were in the enemy trap.

“The Acholi community made a pre-emptive attack killing 80 people including the migrants, while many of them fled with casualty,” an eyewitness revealed.

However, the Madi community turned their anger on the migrants who settled in Acholi Ber, hacking them with machetes, and torching their houses.

A victim who asked not to be named says the Madi people came running to their home and started burning their houses, the victim revealed.

Apiyo Gloria, 37 years old, a mother of 7 children, who is a resident of Oyanga village says a week early, a warning letter was put and pinned on trees around their homestead. the letter read in part. “We don’t want you here, you must leave willingly. Otherwise. you face forceful eviction,” the warning letter read.

John Onen, Chairman Local Government Councillor 1 of Gulu Main Bus Park says he has given some relief to 58 migrants who have since fled from Apaa village.

Namukuce Kevin, a mother of 5 children, and former resident of Acholi Ber in Apaa says she is one of the 58 people who walked over 110 kilometers to Gulu City with her five children. She hailed from Kamuli District, Eastern Uganda.

Namukuce described the situation in Acholi Ber as horrible, the attackers she did not know their identity came and killed one of their neighbors and burnt all their property. “The situation is outrageous, we cannot stay there in Apaa for fear of our lives.” she said.

She added, that as they were leaving, one of the corpses they left behind was being mauled by dogs. “We could not even bury our loved ones,” she said.

“I walked with my five children for three day coming to Gulu City, while we slept on the roadside. I want to travel back to Busoga, Kamuli District, nothing else,” she continued.

John Onen, the Gulu City Main Bus Park Local Council I Chairman, took them to the Office of Prime Minister in the outskirt of Gulu City, where all the 53 people got transport means. Some of them came from Luwero Masaka and Mubende districts in Central Uganda while others came from Kamuli, Iganga, Tororo, Soroti, and Mbale districts in Eastern Uganda. Others came from Nakasongola, Mbarara, Toro, Kabale, and Rukingiri districts in Western Uganda.

Ben Anyama, Adjumani District Chairman, confirmed that they have received a number of dead bodies to Adjumani Health Center but declined to disclose the exact numbers of the people killed, or injured.

Over the years, an estimated 150 people in Apaa have allegedly been killed by the Madi community and migrants meanwhile over 400 grass thatched houses have been burnt.

Apoyo Gloria from Oyanga village says a week ago her huts were burnt down by unknown people. She says they woke up in middle of the night when the heat of fire began to hit them and rushed out without picking a single item.

“We came out almost nude, all our household property was burnt, we could not pick a single thing from the houses, luckily we rescued the  children,” Apiyo narrated to the Black Star News.

Added to that, the attackers who are believed to be from Adjumani, Madi community had a week earlier come and pinned a placard on a tree that read. “We don’t want you here, you must leave.”

Apiyo now lives a destitute life in Apaa centre with her 7 children. She said in the recent attack, the group of Madi came with pangas not knowing that Acholi community had laid ambushes and ready for a pre-emptive attack by the Acholi community armed with bows and arrows.

“The Madi community walked into the ambushes not knowing that they were falling into a valley of death, after the attack, they turned their frustration to attack the migrants,” Apiyo recalled.

Mike Lakony, the Amuru District Chairman, when contacted for comment about UPDF 4th Division Commander eviction order said. “This is good for our people, because they will be very vigilant to protect themselves, but I know the Madi community, for now they will hide, but in the long run they will come out of and attack our community. This will give our people in Apaa to plan for a better future, reorganize themselves in terms of food production,” Lakony said.

The Amuru district Chairman, said the migrants died in large numbers because they did not know how to protect themselves, unlike the Acholi community who were ready for the Madi attack. “That is why there were no big numbers of death tolls from our side,” he said.

Thousands of migrants were still reaching Gulu City by press time, many of them are being directed to the office of Bosco Odoch Olak, Presidential Coordinator in Acholi Sub Region to give them transport money.

The mothers and children reaching Gulu City are in sorry states.

Meanwhile, Grace Freedom Kwiyucwiny, state Minister for Northern Uganda, when contacted by Black Star News, responded that her officer is giving transport money to facilitate the victims of Apaa attack to reach their original place.

“My office is ready to help those who are needy, even Balaalo who lack transportation, my office will help them to transport their animals.”State Minister for Northern Uganda said.

Many Balaalo are still stuck in Northern Uganda following a presidential directive that they should leave Northern Uganda.


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