Editors and managers from different Media houses in northern Uganda have met to discuss unreported stories on Apaa conflict.
For two decades until 2006, northern Uganda was engulfed in a conflict that displaced close to two million people from their homes into Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps.
The end of conflict between the Ugandan government and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in 2006 led to movement of people back to their homes and villages after twenty years of displacement.
The consequence of movement from the internally displaced persons camps to the villages led to land conflicts in communities.
Since 2011, the people of Apaa village, in Amuru district have been embroiled in a bitter land dispute with the government of Uganda who claim the land is a game reserve.
Although stories involving the dispute have been extensively reported in both international and local media, most of the media in northern Uganda have not had the opportunity to independently report on the conflict.
According to Charles Akena, the project officer of Northern Uganda Media Club NUMEC, media bears the responsibility to report well-researched issues affecting society.
‘As NUMEC we stand for the cause, most importantly the ongoing conflict in Apaa touches issues of land rights, natural resources, and climate justice. The worst affected are the vulnerable groups of women, children, and the elderly who live peasantry lives,’ he said.
To get in-depth understanding of the conflict, NUMEC invited Dr Daniel Komakech an academician and researcher at the Institute of research at Gulu University who is also the chairman of the Acholi Apaa land conflict committee, to present the findings of the committee.
Okumu Langol a journalist with Black Stars News, an on line media said the presentation by Dr Komakech helped to highlight some issues that journalists have not covered for the various media houses.
“The presentation that we had during the meeting helped to highlight some very important issues that journalists from the different media houses can take up and do very interesting and informative stories” he said.
Ojok Emma the editor of Radio Pacis said the meeting to discuss the unreported stories on Apaa was so enriching especially the presentation by Dr Komoakech about the present issues and picture on Apaa land and underlying realities that are unknown to many.
‘It opened my eyes and I began reflecting on the past stories produced on different media platforms about Apaa. I believe the independent media trip for our journalists will even unearth more interesting facts,’ he said.
A total of 20 media Editors and managers attended the four hour meeting.
NUMEC is a Gulu- based media development organizations that seek to use media and communications to address post conflict recovery and development issues in northern Uganda.
Below is Dr Daniel Komakech’s presentation. Director Institute Peace and Strategic Studies of Gulu University, Chairperson of the Acholi Team constituting the Apaa conflict resolution process.
SUMMARY OF PRESENTATION.
Since I chair the Acholi team instituted by government to help establish the cause and seek solution to the Apaa conflict, I still carry the team’s voice.
I am proud of the media team in Gulu because this gives our work as a team. Today I have to clarify on this issue of Apaa because the media has to be at the center of human transaction, you give voice to the voiceless so I have to clarify on this issue of Apaa basing on our findings.
“The media has to do more probing so that facts are brought to light for the people to find lasting solution for Apaa”
I want to start natively in the Acholi proverb saying “Ki Bwoto Yib Oyoo Icing Wa” meaning the problem has been left on our hand and we are liable to be blame on the issue of Apaa as Acholi. If this Institution the so called Acholi team or the Committee Or the Process was formed to get an amicable position to the question of Violence in Apaa then we should have done precisely that, but what we are seeing is that as though the team, were formed out of convenience because of many other pressure and then now cabinet position is look as though the team, the group make an addition, process and made a position that Cabinet was looking into. What Cabinet is looking into is rather different from the position the team has been negotiating.
The Apaa issu even when is so complex has been over simplified. The simplicity of this complex question of Apaa is to suggest that this problem of Apaa is tribal. The narrative is that it’s tribal that pity the Acholi against the Madi, and that is not correct. If you go to Apaa you always find the Acholi and Madi trading together. There is a lot if trading, there is a lot of interaction and a lot of social interaction, where is the tribal thesis, where is the tribal narrative in this case? If it’s tribal thesis, where is the narrative which is not the case on the ground and what we see then what is the function of this tribal narrative?
So when you begin to ask the function of this narrative you have to understand the genesis of Apaa and how government came in was until the people of Apaa camped in the United Nation compound in Gulu and made Apaa an international issue and once Apaa is an International issue then the rhetoric about conflict in Africa, part of rhetoric is that conflicts in Africa are tribal in nature and so when its tribal then you have to engage in this tribal discourse because as individual here that does not make sense to us, meaning therefore when we insinuate that Apaa is tribal conflict it means our audience is not in Uganda, our audience is not in Acholi because for us we are wondering it’s not tribal.
This narrative is not for you and I, the narrative is for the international community and the international community have been trapped into this and what do you see as part of infrastructure of this narrative.
Daniel Komakech showing map extract of Apaa dating colonial period
Our position as Apaa team is this is not tribal and it will not be tribal. I have hand written document, testimonies and request from well-established leadership of Madi saying we don’t know this conflict, and we don’t know these Madi people.
Now we have this convoy people, a syndicate of people in trucks who match in for specific purpose. And most of these truck are government truck with listed number plates. We have the lists.
Between the lines what we are saying here is the convoy people are mobilized for purpose.
The question now is where this trucks are coming from and carrying which people camouflaging as Madi. We need to point the source of the convoy and the identity of convoy people. That is the role of journalism to establish.
The tribal conversation is at best political but it serves the purpose within the rhetoric because when you talk about tribal then you eliminate the idea of land ownership and begin to talk about land possession so them when Madi claim this land, Acholi claim this land you do not see an individual owning land.
So when Acholi or Madi wins now at that level when one tribe wins then we say the land belongs to Acholi or Madi and government takes its.
If you simply say Acholi is going to win, Madi is going to win both are going to lose and the third party will take.
The politics of Apaa and degazettement, where does Apaa belong.
In 1959, an idea comes into place that was the whole of Animal corridor from Karuma up to Pakwach, the colonial government decides to think of it in terms of game and wildlife and the first statutory instrument come into force.
In 1963 East Madi controlled hunting ground was established by Act of Parliament and then it was into force in 1964. Kilak hunting ground was also into force. So we had two hunting ground in same place but interesting East Madi hunting ground was in Kilak hunting ground. Kilak by its coverage was covering East Madi.
Whereas it was law it did not materializes and there is an argument that is legal that it was a hunting ground.
In 1972 the government of Iddi Amin degazetted East Madi hunting ground. This is another complexity because the degazatement was for reward for entrenchment of Amin’s government and beneficiaries of this chunk of land in question covered areas of Apaa, Kilak. The beneficiaries included Moses Ali, Onegi Obel, Maliamungu, Wilson Lutara. Mostafa Adrisi and some other people.
As the Indian properties were being grabbed, land was also being grabbed “land bonanza” and by the way beneficiaries of this land area in question were non Ugandans by then and this is legally questionable.
That came in with another confusion in 1972 again when Amin proposed that East Madi becomes the Nile Province. So it became the Nile Province and not East Madi.
In 1884 in Berlin it was agreed that King Leopold II you can hold Congo for as long as you are alive and when you die the whole land can revert to the British. And in that line that part of Albert Nile, the Present West-Nile was Ladu enclave. So Uganda stopped with Acholi. The whole of west Nile was in Congo.
So when Leopold died the Ladu enclave reverted to the British so what was Congo Ladu became Sudanese Ladu.
In 1914 officially Ladu enclave became part of Arua the present day West Nile. When you follow migration of the Acholi and coming of explorers, the political history of Acholi was here 100 years before West-Nile came into present day Uganda. The headquarters of this side of Uganda was in Nimule what was called the equatorial province. Administrative issues were sorted out in Nimule.
1926 part of Uganda was taken so much and given into Congo, part of Rwanda taken given to Uganda the present day Kisoro and from this side the entire Ladu enclave was taken and given to Uganda.
That can partly explains why Amin decided to have the Nile Province.
In 2002 the minister of Tourism comes with position paper before parliament, Parliamentary resolution that the formerly degazetted East Madi should be gazatted into hunting ground.
Note there is distinction between hunting ground and game reserve. In hunting ground human can coexist with animals but in game reserve no human settlement is allowed.
But in between it was rejected and the adoption was that it should be upgraded from hunting ground into a game reserve.
In 2002 the parliamentary resolution is done and that became into the law in 2011. But two things here, a shift from hunting ground to game reserve.
Kilak was gazatted as hunting ground, East Madi was gazatted as hunted ground and East Madi degazatted as hunting ground now East Madi is being re-gazatted into game reserve.
But remember in 2002 people were in the IDP camp and so how can you decide that without consulting people. You should have engaged the people but how do you arrive at that when people were in camp? Here we are talking the law.
When you look at schedule of 2002 and then the statutory instrument of 2011, it does not return East Madi status only but it also extends the boundary and this is where the current crisis originates.
The question here is why would you expand yet East Madi in its former position the area was a very big chunk of land.
This land was unduly upgraded from hunting ground to game reserve, so technically what we want is the land to be degazatted into hunting ground where humans can co-exist with animals.
That is the chronological events of Apaa that translates into today’s problem. Even then to say that the Apaa issue rather entrenches violence of dispossession of land of the marginalized for the political elite with power and wealthy.
Justine Oryema, proprietor of community radio station in Gulu town making reaction during the Expert Talk by Daniel Komakech