By Jonathan Driliga Arua One FM/NECJOGHA
Adjumani, Uganda – Locals in Adjumani and Amuru districts have accused police and the army of cutting down trees in the disputed Apaa land for charcoal business.
The disputed land measures 89 square kilometres and is being claimed by both Amuru and Adjumani residents.
In February, a total of 2,100 people were forced to leave their villages and is now camping at Juka trading Centre in Apaa parish following clashes between Madi from Adjumani district and Acholi from Amuru over the land.
Haruna Odokonyero, one of the affected residents, on Tuesday told Daily Monitor that security personnel who were deployed in the areas have turned to cutting down trees, a move that is likely to have devastating effects on the environment.
“They camouflage as security people but are into massive tree cutting and charcoal business. We keep wondering why the land owners are deprived of access to their land to improve on their livelihood but instead opportunists are taking advantage of it,” he said.
In 2015, government began the process to demarcate administrative boundaries between Amuru and Adjumani in a move to restore calm among communities settled on the land.
However, the process resulted into violence by the two communities that later saw police and army deployed to bring sanity in the area.
Apaa land activist Denis Komakech claimed that previously, security personnel would host those dealing in tree cutting for charcoal business before they ventured into the lucrative trade directly. “They are now doing it openly using heavy machines in our former homesteads destroying the little that was left when we were chased,” he said. Komakech, however, said as land owners they are worried that if the Apaa land dispute is not resolved, they will have to begin from scratch.
“What is shocking is that they are dealing in the endangered Africana Afzelia trees (Beyo),” he said.
The Adjumani district LC5 chairperson, James Leku said, has tried to engage the UPDF fourth division commander over the land matter in vain.
“I had a brief chat with the division officers but they have not taken any action on the matter. But still I will engage them through the district security committee which is sitting soon,”Leku told Daily Monitor.
He added: “if the vice is not stopped with immediate effect, it will compromise the ability to give security in the area.”
The West Nile Police Public Relations Officer, Josephine Angucia said she would contact the office of the district police commander over the allegations. Efforts to get the district commander’s comment were futile by press time.
The fourth division spokesperson, Maj Ceaser Olweny, said he is not aware of the army involvement in tree cutting in Apaa but promised to follow up on the matter.