PAKWACH. At least 30 locals from Jonam County in Pakwach district have been granted unconditional bail by Gulu High Court after spending two weeks in Gulu government prison.

The locals were arrested over protracted land wrangle between the Jonam and Acholi speaking people of Nwoya district.

This is after the suspects had gone to hear a petition earlier filed by the Acholi people at Gulu High Court over a contested piece of land in Nwoya district.

According to the locals, they were unlawfully arrested by police without being given a fair hearing and later remanded to Gulu government prison.

Mr Dona Okecha, one of the victims said the intention of their arrest was merely to intimidate them to abandon the land they have lived on for years, a move he said they will not succumb to.

Okecha claims that the land in question is their ancestral land only that the government relocated them to the Northern side of River Nile in Pakwach district due to the rampant cases of tsetse fly infestation and because of the need to designate the area into a national park.

He said they returned to occupy the land in 1990 under their traditional leader, Chief Omach who welcomed the Comboni Missionaries in the area to spread the evangelical message in West Nile.

But Mr Geoffrey Oryem, the Nwoya district chairperson said the contested land is still under the administration and control of Nwoya district local government.

"We shouldn't be basing our augment on the past because historically, the Luo originated from Bahr el Ghazal in South Sudan and for that reason, it is not logical for us to go and start claiming land in South Sudan," Oryem said.

He advised that the Jonam can acquire land in Nwoya but should adhere to the administrative guidelines of Nwoya district local government.

However, the Pakwach district local government leaders want the dispute that has existed for long be resolved amicably by the traditional Chiefs of the two clans before seeking the government’s intervention.

While addressing the returnees at Alelluya guesthouse in Pakwach town on Tuesday, Mr Robert Omito Steen, the Pakwach district chairperson called for calm and warned against any act of retribution.

He said for peace to prevail, all the parties need to be united.

"As district leaders, we are strategizing for a cordial relationship between the Acholi and Jonam people in Nwoya. Let us embrace peace as stakeholders for our people to live as brothers and sisters," Omito advised.

Ms Jane Pacutho Avur, the Pakwach district woman Member of Parliament said numerous efforts including having the Speaker of Parliament, Ms Rebecca Kadaga to intervene into the matter has not yet materialized.

She has this time around, promised to table the matter on the floor of Parliament as a national concern for debate.