The First Deputy Prime Minister General (Rtd) Moses Ali has been associated with a deadly militia terrorizing and displacing innocent civilians in Apaa, Amuru district, stoking an explosive situation that could cultivate ground for a new rebellion in Northern Uganda.
In 2015, Government demarcated the boundary between Amuru and Adjumani amidst protests from the people of Amuru.
The leaders of Amuru said that the process only involved people from Adjumani and that the boundary was extended inside Amuru.
Since then, the area has witnessed conflicts which have led to deaths, destruction of property as well as displacement of residents.
A Fact-Finding Visit (FFV) to Apaa conducted by Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (PELUM) in collaboration with the “VOICE” discovered that the causes of the Internal displacement which ranged from external aggression on the Apaa community by “seemingly organized attackers” who allegedly come from the direction of Adjumani district.
The assailants launch violent and deadly attacks on women, youth, children and Persons With Disabilities (PWDs), burn homesteads, destroy crops and crop fields, beat, cut and wound the already vulnerable women, youth, PWDs, elders and men.
By the time of this visit, we met with women and men fleeing for their lives as three men of Buganda origin whose identity we have concealed were attacked and severely wounded (all their legs deeply cut) and were rushed to St. Mary’s Hospital Lacor for treatment.
It was further established that a total of 47 huts were burnt on January 3 and January 17, 2019 and 8 more burnt on January 23, 2019.
“We further established from the local leaders and the security forces that these attackers move in groups of between 4 to 10 people armed with Panga, ropes, Bows and Arrows and other sharp objects,” the fact-finding mission report reads in part.
“Their movement corridor was established and by the time of our visit, there was heavy deployment along those identified corridors. It was stressed by the community and local leaders of Juka that these attackers operate like organized local militia group, well-armed and sometimes move in trucks.”
Gen Ali on the spot
A reliable contact who spoke to us on condition of anonymity so as to speak freely says Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda who was tasked to find solutions to the Apaa and Amuru crisis is stuck “because the perpetrators of the chaos are loyal to his deputy – Gen Moses Ali”.
The source said Rugunda and Cabinet’s “hands are tied” because they fear to antagonize the former rebel leader.
Gen Ali, who hails from Adjumani District and is among the biggest land owners in West Nile, led the Uganda National Rescue Front (UNRF) in the 1980s before being brought into the NRM government by President Museveni in a peace deal.
The 80-year-old, who served as Finance Minister in Idi Amin’s government, also is said to be providing protection to the attackers.
The most devastating finding by researchers was that these attackers were on many occasions arrested by security forces and handed over to Adjumani Police Station but most of them were released under unclear circumstance. This has frustrated the efforts of the security forces on ground.
It was alleged that such release of the suspects were made under direct instruction of a “Powerful Individual” within the state – a veiled response to Gen Ali.
It also was established that a total of nineteen people including a juvenile (Okot) were kidnapped and taken to Openzizi prisons in Adjumani with concocted charges including burning houses/arson even in locations alleged houses never existed.
Observers have warned of “deeper repercussions” if the situation is not contained.
The Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga last week directed the Office of the Prime Minister to intervene in the displacement of people of Apaa.
This came after the MPs: Hon. Lucy Akello (Amuru District) and Hon. Lilly Adong (Nwoya District) sought immediate government intervention to solve the ongoing havoc meted on the people of the area by unknown militia from Adjumani district.
The MPs raised the issues during Wednesday’s sitting, forcing the Speaker to ask the Prime Minister for an explanation during the Thursday sitting.
The MPs said this was in contravention of a presidential directive halting any evictions of the people of Apaa.
During the Thursday sitting however, the Minister of Internal Affairs, Hon. Mario Obiga Kania, said that the Prime Minister had directed his Ministry to prepare the response to be presented on Tuesday next week.
“The Office of the Prime Minister is directed to go and support the people who have no food and probably no shelter. This is very urgent,” said Kadaga.
She also directed the Ministry of Internal Affairs to ensure there is security for people in camps.
“Those who are injured should be treated, please keep the place secure until you come to us [on Tuesday],” said Kadaga.
Kadaga gave the directive after Minister Obiga Kania asked for more time to present a statement of the sustained havoc on and displacement of the people of Apaa by unknown militia.
“We are preparing the statement. I have already consulted some of the colleagues from that area and are agreeable to having other meetings so that we come here with a comprehensive statement,” said Kania.
This visit established from local leaders, security forces and by observation that there was an Internally Displaced People’s camp (IDP) situated at Juka trading Centre with an estimated population of over 700 women, youth, children and Persons with Disabilities (as per the eye witness at the time of visit) and the numbers were still growing day and night.
The people who are now confined within the IDP camp are the ones who have on several occasions experienced the attacks and destruction of property.
This IDP camp is situated near a Security establishment of the Uganda Peoples Defense Forces and Uganda Police in Juka trading centre.
The problems facing the women, youth, children and Persons with Disabilities at the IDP camp ranges from lack of safe drinking water, lack of sanitary facilities, inadequate food and poor shelter.
It was finally revealed by communities and local leaders in Juka that these attackers sometimes come as far as Moyo, Maracha and Yumbe districts.
After they have launched the attacks and burnt houses, the people from Adjumani side come and erect/put their temporary structures made of iron sheets.
The local leaders and community of Juka said since the forceful district boundary demarcation between Amuru and Adjumani by government in 2015 which placed greater parts of Apaa into Adjumani district, the Madi community in Adjumani have since then claimed that all the affected land of Apaa belong to the Madi and therefore no Acholi should be allowed to remain in this land.
This is one of the basis for the invasion, burning of homesteads and erection of temporary shelters made of iron sheets.