The army has sacked one of its senior officers under the 501 brigade for negligence following clashes over the disputed Apaa land that resulted in the death of six people and left 11 others nursing injuries. The deceased who included three male adults from Central Uganda and three others from Adjumani district were reportedly killed in separate attacks by unknown assailants between December 1st and 3rd.

The incidents happened in Oyanga, Luru, and Acholi Ber parishes in the Itirikwa sub-county, all areas under contention pitying Adjumani and Amuru districts, National Forestry Authority (NFA), and Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). Col. Benard Rubainika Kashemeza, the former Brigade Commander of the 501 brigade was sacked over the weekend and recalled to the Fourth Infantry Division Headquarters in Gulu City where he is locked up.

He was replaced with Lt. Col Kenneth Buruga Ahimbisbwe. Fourth Infantry Division Commander Brig. Michael Kabango told locals at a gathering in Apaa Township on Tuesday that they registered negligence on the side of their security personnel and have decided to take action.

Brig. Kabango notes that Col. Kashemeza and other officers who failed to do their jobs will be arraigned in the Military court martial at the Fourth Infantry Division to face trial. He says local leaders and other community members who were involved in mobilizing and committing the crimes on the side of Madi and Acholi will also be prosecuted.

Brig. Kabango faulted some of the implicated security officials for facilitating the influx of foreigners mainly from central and Western Uganda to occupy the East Madi Wildlife Reserve and Zoka Central Forest Reserve. He notes that there has been a sharp rise in the population of locals in the disputed Apaa land in just four months from an estimated 40,000 people to about 80,000 people, the majority of whom are foreigners conducting commercial charcoal production, timber trade, and commercial agriculture.

According to Kabango, the army has given the foreigners time to voluntarily vacate the area for their safety arguing that they are already meddling in a conflict that doesn’t involve them.

Brig. Kabango promised the residents of Apaa Township that there wouldn’t be such another brutal attack and warned that anyone who is still occupying the gazetted government land must leave or start the process of leaving. Days after the brutal attacks, 11 members of Parliament under their umbrella body, the Acholi Parliamentary Group (APG) on Tuesday for the first time were granted access to the disputed land since their last visit in 2021.

The legislators led by APG Chairperson and Kilak North member of Parliament, Anthony Akol visited Apaa Township under the supervision of Brig. Kabango to assess situations on the ground and interact with the affected locals of the recent attacks. Speaking to hundreds of locals who attended the gathering, Akol noted that as leaders from Acholi, they fully support the decisions taken by the army to have all foreigners leave Apaa Township before the matter can be resolved. 

He says there can’t be a peaceful resolution to the conflict if other natives are meddling in the disputes between the Madi and the Acholi.

Martin Ojara Mapenduzi, the Bardege-Layibi Division legislator however faulted residents in Apaa for selling and hiring out their land to foreigners, a move he says will gradually leave them as squatters on their land. Mapenduzi called on the government to independently investigate the recent fatal clashes and apprehend all culprits so that they face the law.

The new 501 Brigade Commander Col. Buruga in his maiden address to the locals in Apaa Township promised to work hand in hand with the community to ensure the conflicts are addressed peacefully.

“I have been in this area before, first in 1992, I know much about the Apaa issue and I believe we can handle it the way you want,” says Lt. Col Buruga. Meanwhile, hundreds of nonnatives occupying the disputed land started voluntarily vacating the area over the weekend following calls by the Fourth Infantry Division commander Brig. Micheal Kabango.


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