PAKWACH. The residents of Ragem village in Wadelai sub county, Pakwach district are in fight with Ragem government prison officials over the prison’s farm land.
The long time fight came to light on Tuesday during a meeting organized by Pakwach district security team at Wadelai sub county headquarters.
During the meeting, Ragem residents accused a section of Ragem prison officials of attempting to grab the said piece of land.
Ms Faustine Cwinya-ai, a representative of the aggrieved community said the locals in good faith, offered the 2,100 acre piece of land for the establishment of Ragem prison land in 1976 but they later got surprised to hear that the prison’s authorities want to own the land in question.
This followed April 2018 letter addressed by the prison authority claiming ownership of 4,000 acres of land earmarked for the expansion of the prison farm.
Cwinya-ai said it is wrong to abuse the generosity of the community but insisted any further development plan that necessitated acquisition of land should be in consultation with the locals without resorting to cases of intimidation like illegal arrest of alleged encroachers on the disputed piece of land.
Mr John Ongwech, a charcoal burner recently accused Ragem prison officials of shooting eight live gun bullets at him from the farm at around 7:00pm.
He said in the process, his colleagues sustained serious injuries while attempting to escape. Ongwech asked government to take action against the errant prison officers as the matter has already been reported at Wadelai sub county police post.
But while inspecting the disputed land, Mr James Mukose, the Pakwach resident district commissioner (RDC) said the act of shooting at the locals was uncalled for.
He promised to follow up the matter so as to bring the perpetrators to book.
“How do you shoot at locals whom you are supposed to protect? Mukose asked, adding that all the bullets used by the prison officers at that time will be accounted for.
He later suspended all activities on the contested piece of land until it’s rightfully ownership is established.
"No more activity should take place on this plot by both parties as we institute an independent committee to come up with a comprehensive report on its ownership,” Mukose directed.
However, Mr Emmanuel Nuwagaba, the officer in charge of Ragem prison farm said he was working on delegated authority. He noted that the commissioner of prisons has been notified of the locals’ decision which is against the expansion of the prison’s farm.
Nuwagaba also said the officers were forced to shoot in the air for self defence as the encroachers were threatening to harm them with pangas, spears, bow and arrows.
Meanwhile Ms Richard Ochan Veve, the Wadelai sub county chairperson called for dialogue between the prison officials and the local community for harmonious existence.
He urged the district land board to expeditiously handle the matter so as to bring the long time conflict to a logical conclusion.