Nabbanja was meeting the locals and their leadership at Otwee Multi-Purpose Hall. All was going on well until Nabbanja told the residents that cabinet had resolved that all occupants of Apaa township voluntarily leave by May 15, 2023, or risk forceful eviction.
Nabbanja noted that cabinet had resolved to compensate each of the affected people with national identity cards Shs 10 million in addition to twenty iron sheets, and twenty bags of cement while those without national identification cards would receive Shs 2 million. She noted that the government had set aside Shs 2.5 billion for the exercise, which would kick off immediately and run for three months.
She also directed the ministry of Local Government to stop the operation of the Apaa market within a month.
“The timeframe is as follows; that in one month the minister of Local Government is directed to stop the operations in the market in one month. Then we shall also implement the compensation and sensitisation of our communities for three months. Today is 15th and that will end on 15th May. After that period, we shall do forceful eviction. So the reason we’re here is for us to see how best we can deliver this message, and also inform you about the government decision, and two, to allow you to time the 3-month period to give you time to prepare our people and communities so that they can take advantage of this compensation and those who would have refused to move will be forcefully evicted on 16th May this year,” said Nabbanja.
The exercise according to Nabbanja was meant to protect and preserve the environment as well as the wildlife, noting that similar evictions took place in Kyenjojo, Mt Elgon, Queen Elizabeth, and Lake Mburo. No sooner had the prime minister completed her statement than the Kilak North MP Anthony Akol interrupted and ordered her to shut up and sit down and leave Amuru district immediately.
“No we’re not interested in such [compensation], if you have come to listen to us, you have to listen to us because you said, and before it was said, that government listens to the people. You can’t bring the Appa issue as if you’re talking about any other part of the country. This is a reserve you created when people were in IDP camps and they are the true owners of the land. The other places, there are those people who are entering the park, that is a different issue altogether. And therefore as you’re a government, you have come to listen to us…you’re not going to treat the Appa issue like any other park in Uganda. You better come and meet our people, our people will not get any money from you. In fact, you don’t have to wait for three months come tomorrow…” charged Akol.
Akol’s statement appears to have incited the audience who started booing down the prime minister as some even started charging towards her – forcing security to evacuate her and other officials from the meeting venue. The commotion, which lasted more than twenty minutes attracted the attention of heavily armed police, and soldiers among others who rushed to rescue the officials from the angry mob.
The soldiers and police led the officials to their waiting cars as some of the residents hurled bottles while some women removed their blouses while threatening to strip naked. The officials later boarded two waiting helicopters at Otwee Public primary school grounds, which was about half a kilometre away from the meeting venue.
The other officials at the venue included the third deputy prime minister, and minister Without Portfolio, Lukia Isanga Nakadama, Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister Norbert Mao, Security minister Jim Muhwezi, Local Government minister Raphael Magezi, and state minister for Northern Uganda, Grace Freedom Kwiyucwiny among others.
Earlier before Nabbanja arrived for the meeting, the residents through the area MPs had asked the government officials to address human rights abuses in the area, unconditionally release those arrested arbitrarily, remove illegal roadblocks in Apaa, degazette the area for human settlement, and make Apaa an autonomous area under the central government until when the conflicts are resolved.
URN established that Nabbanja had earlier met with a delegation of Madi from Adjumani district who agreed to all her pronouncements. Alfred Okwonga, the Apaa local chairperson, and Amuru district LC V chairperson, Michael Lakony said that the people of Apaa have since 2006 been living in fear and slavery due to the persistent conflicts in the area.
The ownership of Apaa township measuring approximately 47 square miles is under contention pitting the Madi of Adjumani against the Acholi of Amuru district. Government agencies including Uganda Wildlife Authorities (UWA) and National Forestry Authority (NFA) also claim that the area lies within their reserves.