ARUA. A section of people claiming to be landlords of the area hosting refugees in Madi Okollo district have protested against conditions which they said have betrayed their trust in individuals and organisations managing refugee affairs.
The landlords under the umbrella organisation of Oluba community development association (OCDA) said they offered to settle refugees on the part of their land which includes Aringaze, Amangua, Katiku, Eden, Alinyiri, Iwadromadi, and Abirichenduku. Others are Tunduru and Walupe.
During a press conference over the weekend, the members led by the association’s vice chairman Mr Faruk Andati Wajah told journalists that they had suffered enough in the hands of prominent individuals, agents of government and some humanitarian organisations.
“I wish to put it categorically clear that it is very unfortunate that in 1991, Oluba clan together with 8 other clans in Rigbo and Rhino camp sub counties accepted the request of the government through a powerful delegation led by then prime minister Late Cosmas Adyebo to host refugees under the flagship of Rhino Camp refugee settlement in the then Okollo county, Arua district”, Andati said.
He continued “Our extension of brotherly hands and unrivalled spirit of hospitality has been paid back to us by repeated abuse of our rights through marginalization, oppression of our people, land grabbing, border distortions, abuse of ministerial office and power, war mongering, incitement of violence between people of Terego and Madi Okollo”.
The organisation faults the internal affairs state minister Mr Mario Obiga Kania and the Terego East MP for inciting violence and gerrymandering the curving of areas deep inside Rigbo sub county, Madi Okollo district and promoting illegal voter registration targeting squatters and other land users.
But Kania denied the allegations against him saying those accusing him are self-seekers.
“It’s not my role to change boundaries, Obiga Kania does not change borders, the borders of Uganda have remained the same since 1962. The Madi and the Terego have always lived peacefully, when there are small problems they solve them peacefully and that will continue”, Kania said.
Kania said he was also being maligned because he stopped a plan by some individuals from Rigbo who had connived with refugee authorities and got some money from them to build a police station in a disputed place in Ocea without police permission.
“First of all the authority for locating police stations is with the president, ministers of internal affairs and it’s with the police authority which the minister chairs, as a minister I asked them who gave them the authority to locate a police station there and they wanted to locate it in the area which is still in conflict”, he said.
The Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) has also been faulted for alleged masquerading of itself as the landlord and undermining the constitution which states that land belongs to the people and not the government.
Mr Hassan Hussein Ariaka, the general secretary of the association said “some refugees who never returned to South Sudan in 2006 are now treated as landlords, we have tolerated this enough and we are now going to act, we have been abused enough and we can’t take it any longer”.
He alleged that between 2013 and 2015, OPM forged landownership agreement and distributed to settlers as landlords as cover up for phase two settlement whose permission has never been granted.
Mr Solomon Osakan, the refugee desk officer at OPM Arua office said equally denied allegations levelled against his office by the landlords saying they were uncalled for.
“We appreciate them not with lots of money but through livelihood support to the landlords and other host communities unfortunately we often get these monies from donors with in a very short period of time after that there is no much we can do, in terms of jobs, the problem of jobs is everywhere, we only hire skilled labour which is scarce in that area”, Osakan said.
He said the other assistance the government is giving to landlords and host communities is through the DRDIP program which is mainly for infrastructural development adding that a lot was being done to appreciate the host communities.