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Aswa-Lolim land: The brewing conflict between Acholi, Jonam



Contested. Casual workers weed a maize plantation on one of the farms within the contested area at Obira East Village, Gotapwoyo Sub-county in Nwoya District on April 20. PHOTO | TOBBIAS JOLLY OWINY  


An upsurge in wrangles over land between the Jonam and Acholi communities in former Aswa-lolim Game Reserve in GotapwoyoSub-county, Nwoya District, has claimed at least 10 lives and left scores injured in the past one year.

On May 21, Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) soldiers shot dead Kerukadho Ocaka, Socrate Onenrach, Walter Piwun and Innocent Taban at Obira South Village, Gotapwoyo Sub-county in Nwoya.

The incident occurred when an unidentified number of locals armed with machetes, bows, arrows and spears allegedly attacked a UPDF detach on a disputed piece of land within the former game reserve owned by Lt Gen Charles Otema Awany, the UPDF Reserve Forces commander.

On June 8, police at Pakwach Central Police Station blocked a group of more than 100 demonstrators from crossing Pakwach Bridge as theyattempted to show grievance over the killings and mistreatment of their colleagues.

The district police commander, Mr Frank Muzura, said the demonstration was against the presidential directives on Covid-19, which prohibit gatherings of more than 10 people.

Efforts to reach Gen Otema via his known telephone contact over the issue have proved futile.

However, Mr Richard Todwong, Gen Otema’s brother, told Daily Monitor that his brother rightfully acquired the land.

“On behalf of the Awany family, we have never grabbed any land there, he (Gen Otema) has not even cheated any landowner of a penny, we paid for all we have there, including buying others’ interests there,” Mr Todwong said.

Mr Todwong claimed Gen Otema had leasehold titles from the district land board for the contested land including that at Obira Village where the shooting happened.

Although survivors claim they had gone to Gen Otema’s farm to negotiate for release of their properties that had been confiscated by the soldiers who ordered them to vacate the land, police said the victims were armed and intended to attack the soldiers.
The incident brings to 10 the total number of people killed over land contests within the area between May 2019 and May 2020.

Mr Ben Latim Openy, the Gotapwoyo Sub-county chairperosn, said of 14 incidents of attacks, members of the Jonam community that crossed from Pakwach District had committed 12.

Mr Openy said members of Jonam community strongly believe and treat the former reserve as their customary-owned land.

“The claimants ignore our offices and that of the sub-county land committee, and instead report to Pakwach authorities accusing Acholi of displacing them,” Mr Openy added.

Although Gen Otema reportedly possess at least 10,000 acres within the former game reserve, we could not independently verify this from the district land office.

“Several mediations in the past by the political and cultural leaders have not helped. The Lands ministry must come to the ground and declare the status of this land so that the matter is sorted out once and for all,” Mr Openy said.

In 2014, a meeting convened by Mr Todwong (then Minister without portfolio) to resolve the dispute between the Acholi community and Jonam people over ownership of land turned rowdy when the Jonam accused theleadership of Nwoya of threatening to evict them from an area they once occupied for decades before fleeing to West Nile for safety when the Lord’s Resistance Army war intensified.
Mr Todwong then prematurely closed the meeting.

Last year, the two tribes were embroiled in a heated conflict over a compensation scheme by Uganda Electricity Transmission Company Limited (UETCL) for a 9sqkm stretch of land at Yagopino, in Gotapwoyo Sub-county, Nwoya.

UETCL assessed 45 project-affected persons reportedly of Acholi origin but a new group of 65 project-affected persons turned up fromPakwach demanding compensation since they are the rightful owners of the land.
Leaders speak out
Mr Ruoth Moses Ogenwrot Omach, the leader of Paroketo Parish in Pakwach, on Monday warned that unless the two tribes urgently sit and mediate the matter, the situation could get out of hand.

“We don’t want to be pulled into the situation of Madi or Acholi in Apaa because some parties failed to play their cards rightly. After the insurgency, people resettled there again and the land board needed to act impartially,” Mr Omach said.

On Tuesday, Mr Emmanuel Ongiertho, the Jonam County Member of Parliament in an interview with Daily Monitor, blamed the protracted conflicts over the land on the Nwoya District Land Board whom he said had failed to act impartially and objectively in issuing out the land.

“We have records of so many of our people whose application documents for the land have never been validated from the time whthe land was still under Amuru. That problem has persisted, the land board considers more those from the Acholi side,” Mr Ongiertho said.

Because of delayed consideration of their applications, Mr Ongiertho said many Jonam people settled on the land although it was never inspected.

He added that the same land was allocated by the district to other developers, sparking conflict.

“Unfortunately, the Acholi chief, Rwot David Onen Achana is still out of the country, otherwise we would have held a meeting to seek solutions” Mr Ruoth Ogenrwot said.

He added that thousands of Jonam people are peacefullysettled in Amuru District because their land board allowed them to apply for the land they previously occupied.
But Nwoya District authorities insist that there was no need to inspect the land priorto leasing whether occupied or not since the settlers encroached and settled there illegally.

“It is unfortunate that these victims are fronting customary claims over this land. Instead, our brothers and sisters from across the Nile (Pakwach or Nebbi) come with letters from their districts to claim land there, that is unacceptable,” Mr Zeru Abukha, the chairman Nwoya land board, said.

Mr Abukha said whoever does not have titles to justifyownership of land in that area is occupying it illegally.

“For example, the attackers who were shot dead trespassed into a property owned by Gen Otema. Fortunately, Gen Otema possess a title for the piece of land in question,” Mr Abukha said.

Land status
Aswa-Lolim Game Reserve
Nearly 95 per cent of Gotapwoyo Sub-county land falls under the former Aswa-Lolim Game Reserve (measuring approximately 46,000 hectares in size).

When the colonial government declared the area a game reserve in 1952, the evacuated people were compensated by relocation to safer areas in Gulu, Pader, Lamwo and Amuru while the Jonam were resettled insidePakwach and Nebbi districts.

The status remained so until 1972 when it was degazetted as a wild animal sanctuary and handed to the respective local governments (district land boards).

As early as 2008 following an end to the LRA war, people started to return to the area to settle or do farming, the same period wrangles began to escalate.

However, members of both Jonam and Acholi communities rushed to occupy plots or chunks of land within Aswa-lolim area basing on customary claims.

But any land deal done on a former public land without the involvement of the district land board becomes null and void since one must go through the board to process and possess a deed title, so that they can own the land.

Original Post: Daily Monitor


The East African Court of Justice fixes the ruling date for a petition challenging the EACOP project.



By Witness Radio team.

The East African Court of Justice has set Wednesday the 29th of November, 2023 to deliver a ruling on a petition challenging the construction of the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) Project filed by four East African Non-governmental Organizations.

The Court consists of Honorable Mr. Justice Yohane Bokobora Masara Principal Judge, Honorable Justice Dr. Charles Nyawello Deputy Principal Judge, Honorable Mr. Justice Richard Muhumuza, Honorable Mr. Justice Richard Wejuli, and Honorable Justice Dr. Gacuko Leonard.

According to the ruling notice seen by Witness Radio, the regional Court will deliver the ruling at 9:30 East Africa Standard Time, the 29th of November 2023.

On 6 November 2020, Natural Justice, Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO), Centre for Strategic Litigation and the Centre for Food and Adequate Living Rights (CEFROHT) Limited filed a petition against the governments of Uganda and Tanzania and the Secretary General of the East African Community (EAC) challenging the construction of the EACOP project. 

The basis of the Applicants’ petition rests on the assertion that the EACOP project violates multiple provisions of the Treaty of the Establishment of East African Community. The project further violates the Protocol for the Sustainable Management of the Lake Victoria Basin, the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, the African Convention on Conservation of Natural Resources, the post–2020 Convention on Biological Diversity, and the Paris Climate Accords.

Furthermore, the Applicants argue that the entities backing the EACOP project, such as Total Energies, China’s National Offshore Oil Corporation, and the Governments of Uganda and Tanzania, failed to carry out thorough and meaningful public engagement and consultation processes and additionally did not conduct comprehensive assessments of both the human rights and climate impacts before initiating the EACOP project.

In 2006, Uganda discovered commercially viable oil reserves in the Albertine Graben region, specifically in the Lake Albert area near Hoima district.

With the cooperation and support of its neighbor, Tanzania, the two governments approved in March 2023 the construction of the $5 billion EACOP project, which is planned to cover a distance of 1,443 kilometers.

The East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) connects the Tilenga and Kingfisher oilfields in western Uganda with the port of Tanga in eastern Tanzania, when completed, the project will be the longest heated crude oil pipeline in the world crossing through 10 districts in Uganda, and 25 districts in Tanzania.

Uganda’s President, Mr. Yoweri Museveni Tibuhaburwa, has often celebrated the oil projects calling a success. He firmly believes that the oil discovery represents a significant catalyst for economic development and will bring benefits to the local communities, but the current reality is a reverse to his statements.

The EACOP project has triggered significant concerns among communities and civil society groups due to its detrimental impacts on thousands of individuals in Uganda and Tanzania. The most affected have been the Project Affected Persons (PAPs) and human rights activists who stand against the project. Reports have highlighted cases of land grabbing, the displacement of host communities, inadequate compensation, and the troubling trend of harassing and arresting community leaders and rights activists.

It should be remembered that on the 14th of September 2022, the European Union Parliament passed an advisory resolution to suspend the oil pipeline for a year citing disastrous human and environmental rights violations associated with the project.

The resolutions put forth by the European Parliament legislators echo the distressing issues raised by affected communities regarding the oil pipeline project.

In response to the violation of human rights, conventions, and treaties, Civil Societies including Natural Justice, AFIEGO, Centre for Strategic Litigation, and CEFROHT took the pivotal step of approaching the East African Court of Justice to challenge the construction of the EACOP project.

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UPDF General, District Police Commander, and Presidential Representative defy Court summonses for the second time as DPP takes over the EACOP-PAP’s case.



By Witness Radio team.

The office of the Director of Public Prosecutions in Hoima has taken over the private prosecution case filed by Arinaitwe Peter and Company Advocates on behalf of an East African Crude Oil (EACOP) Project affected community against the Army General, Presidential Representative, District police Commander, and 10 others accused of violently and illegally evicting over 2500 lawful residents from their land they had called home for decades.

On 11th/09//2023, the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) Project-Affected Persons (PAPs) started a private criminal proceeding against the thirteen suspects including Brig. Gen. Peter Akankunda Nabasa, Gafayo Ndawula William, Kyakashari Micheal, one Oketcha Micheal, Bogere Jackson, one Kiiza Nathan Byarugonjo, one Oromo Luzira, a Local Council One Secretary for Runga, one Mukindo Bosco, Okethi Bosco, Oming Jacob, Muswa Micheal, Kawiya Henry, Ningaling Joseph, and others still at large in an effort to hold them accountable for their criminality and human rights violations committed during the Kapapi brutal evictions.

Criminal case file no. 877 of 2023 at Hoima court contains various criminal offenses namely; sexual abuse, rape, criminal trespass, arson, looting properties, battering people, and forcefully evicting residents from their homes, which constitutes a violation of the non-derogable right to freedom from torture, cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment, as guaranteed under Article 23 And 44 of the 1995 Constitution of the Republic of Uganda.

The court session, scheduled for 9 am, faced a delay due to the state attorneys’ late arrival caused by prior engagements. Despite this, the Court commenced proceedings and began by addressing an application submitted by the ODPP on October 10, 2023. This application aimed to grant the ODPP permission to take over the prosecution, citing constitutional mandates and legal provisions.

During these proceedings, key figures including the Army Gen. Brig. Gen. Peter Akankunda Nabasa, Presidential representative, Kyakashari Micheal, and District Police Commander Bogere Patrick, among others, defied the Court’s second summonses issued against them to present themselves before Court. Simultaneously, several other individuals related to the case including Gafayo William, a Hoima-based businessman, Oketcha Micheal, Orumu Luzira, and Oming Jacob were present in Court.

Lawyers for the EACOP community objected to the ODPP’s involvement, raising concerns about potential biases, lack of transparency, the application’s failure to meet the standards outlined in Article 120, Clause 4(a) of Uganda’s Constitution, and the DPP office’s past alignment with the accused. The defense highlighted instances where the ODPP allegedly favored the accused, disregarding serious complaints filed by the community and even resulting in the wrongful imprisonment of the complainants.

“The very office seeking to take over this case was previously instrumentalized by the accused individuals to criminalize the complainants, resulting in the complainants being charged with multiple offenses and imprisoned for periods ranging from three to five months. Moreover, this same office has failed to act on filed cases and complaints by community members against the suspects. For instance, a reported gang rape case at Kitoba police referenced HMD-GEF-003 of three women belonging to the Kapapi community where the 4 suspects include; the District Police Commander, remain unaddressed. How can trust be placed in an entity that has previously been utilized in a manner seemingly benefiting the accused, while overlooking serious complaints filed by the community?” Lawyer Arinaitwe Peter who represented residents asked Court. 

In their rejoinders, the DPP’s office, led by state attorneys Catherine Nakaggwa and Crispus Ceaser Naloda, reiterated that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) holds the right to appear in any court proceeding, regardless of the stage of the trial initiated under private prosecution emphasizing the DPP’s authority to orally address the court regarding their intention to assume control of the ongoing criminal proceedings.

In addressing concerns about impartiality and transparency, the attorney stated that the lawyers representing the victims will be closely monitoring the proceedings to ensure clarity and fairness. They emphasized that the victims’ legal representatives will “watch a brief,” allowing them to observe and comprehend every step taken by the DPP’s office as they execute their mandate.

While giving her ruling on the submissions, Grade One Magistrate Stella Mwali of the Hoima Court referenced Article 120(3)(c), which grants the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) the authority to assume control and proceed with any criminal proceedings initiated by another individual or authority to grant their request.

“The charges are criminal in nature and the court sees no powerful reason to object the DPP’s office from taking over this case and exercising its mandate.” Her worship said in a ruling.

The 13 accused persons and their agents in the wee hours (1:00 AM) local time on February, 10th 2023, raided people’s homes with dozens of unidentified armed individuals, donning Uganda Police Force (UPF) and Uganda People’s Defense Force (UPDF) uniforms. 

Acting under the orders of DPC Bogere and Brigadier Nabasa, along with armed guards affiliated with Magnum, a private security company fired tear gas and live bullets into their houses, sexually abused women, set people’s houses ablaze, physical assaults, kidnaps, looted livestock, and food items and forced eviction of over 2500 people from their land.

The actions of the accused led to the grabbing of 1294.99 hectares of land that were being lawfully occupied and cultivated by thousands of locals in the villages of Waaki North, Kapapi Central, Waaki South, Runga, and Kiryatete within Kapapi and Kiganja sub-counties in Hoima district 

Their actions were aimed at positioning themselves to benefit from compensation related to the community’s land, earmarked for an EACOP (East African Crude Oil Pipeline) project scheduled to be developed on this territory.

The private prosecution case of the 13 suspects will re-appear in the same court on the 19th of December 2023 with plea taking.

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Breaking: The army general, police chief, presidential representative, and others are appearing before the Hoima Chief Magistrate court today.



By Witness Radio team

Hoima, 13th of November 2023. A Ugandan Army General, Hoima Rural District Police Commander, and a Presidential representative among the 13 suspects expected to be charged with several criminal and human rights violation offences committed while forcefully evicting over 2500 local families to give way for an East African Crude Oil pipeline (EACOP) project.

Brig. Gen. Peter Akankunda Nabasa, one Gafayo Ndawula William, Kyakashari Micheal a Deputy Resident District Commissioner in Hoima, one Oketcha Micheal, Bogere Patrick, a Hoima Rural District Police Commander, one Kiiza Nathan Byarugonjo, one Oromo Luzira, a Local Council One Secretary for Runga, one Mukindo Bosco, Okethi Bosco, Oming Jacob, Muswa Micheal, Kawiya Henry, Ningaling Joseph, and others still at large accused of raping women, defilement, arson, and criminal trespass among other offenses.

The 1st accused person is the Deputy Commander of Uganda Peoples Defense Forces, First Division Kakiri in Wakiso District; The 2nd accused person is a Businessman with Businesses in Hoima District; the 3rd Accused is Deputy RDC Hoima District. The 4th accused is the Hoima Rural District Police Commander. The 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th & and 13th accused persons are residents of Kapapi Village and were agents of the evictors.

It followed on October 12th 2023 when the 13 suspects’ plea-taking flopped after the absence of the trial magistrate.

Meanwhile only four of the thirteen suspects, namely Gafayo William Ndawula, Oketcha Micheal, and Oromo Luzira, lawyers for Brig. Gen. Peter Akankunda Nabasa was present in court on that day.

On 11th/09//2023, the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) Project-Affected Persons (PAPs), through their lawyers Arinaitwe Peter and Company Advocates started a private criminal proceeding against the thirteen suspects to hold suspects accountable for their criminality and human rights violations.

Each charge attracts different punishments on conviction, as shown below;

Section 124 of the Penal Code states that the punishment for rape on conviction is liable to suffer death; the punishment for assault on court conviction is five years; the punishment threatening violence on court conviction does not exceed four years; the punishment for arson on court conviction is fourteen years; and Punishment for robbery, one has to suffer life imprisonment among others.

According to the charge sheet, the accused persons and their agents in the wee hours (1:00 AM) local time on February 10th, 2023, raided people’s homes without a court order with dozens of unidentified armed individuals, donning Uganda Police Force (UPF) and Uganda People’s Defense Force (UPDF) uniforms.

Acting under the orders of DPC Bogere and Brigadier Nabasa, along with armed guards from Magnum, a private security company. The suspects and their agents fired live bullets and tear gas into their houses, sexually abused women, set people’s houses ablaze, physical assaults, kidnaped, and looted livestock, and food items, and forcefully evicted project-affected families off their land.

The actions of the accused led to the grabbing of 1294.99 hectares that were being lawfully occupied and cultivated by thousands of locals in the villages of Waaki North, Kapapi Central, Waaki South, Runga, and Kiryatete within Kapapi and Kiganja sub-counties in Hoima district.

According to research findings by Witness Radio, the individuals involved in the Kapapi land grab are targeting to benefit from the potential compensation intended for community members, given that their land was identified to be impacted by the Tilenga Resettlement Action Plan 4, an EACOP project.

In one of the Resettlement Action Plan (RAP) reports, Total Energies Uganda identified Kapapi, Runga, Waaki, and Kiryatete villages as areas that will be affected by the proposed Tilenga Feeder Pipeline Component (RAP 4).

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