WEST NILE. Yumbe and Arua district over Ewanga sub-county, Moyo and her ‘baby’ Obongi district and now Arua and her ‘baby’ Ma’di Okollo district?
Such is the question I and other likeminded people asked themselves when a cross-section of leaders ‘spitfire’ during a function to commission 2-blocks of twin staff houses under the development response to displacement impacts project (DRDIP) at O’dobu primary on 23rd August.
Such a day should have been ideally for merrymaking and the usual thanksgiving speeches and rightfully so after the government injecting over sh300 million in an institution that was only a village school in 1993.
But in exact contrast, the tone was rather violent or harsh, to say the least, “This is a very stupid act from which all those involved should desist” what worse rebuke would one expect if such phrases were being used?
O’dobu primary is located in a contentious area that is been claimed by Uriama sub-county in Arua district and Rigbo sub-county in the new Ma’di Okollo district.
“We heard that there were people who wanted to cause problems here and we also sent people who like problems a lot to meet them but they were lucky” Arua district chairman Mr Sam Wadri Nyakua sarcastically said in his speech.
He wondered why one would “carry the burden of this border issue as if it were going to put money in their pockets or food on the table”.
He implored the people of the two sub-counties to build upon their long-standing cordial relationship that has seen them carry most of their activities together.
Nyakua’s comments sparked a new tone of speech, condemnation after intimidation followed in what could clearly bring out the true picture of the problem.
“Why are we fighting? Those instigating land conflicts please stand warned because it will not help you, you can’t be masquerading around to own land that you are only selling away” Northern Uganda state minister Grace Freedom Kwiyocwiny shot at the audience.
However, the state minister for internal affairs and area Member of Parliament, the guest of honour for the commissioning exercise had the strongest words of rebuke for local leaders.
“Am surprised that today there are people who are fighting that the land (O’dobu) belongs to Terego or Madi claiming these are my people etc., you are just elected yesterday and when did these people become yours? When they vote you out tomorrow whose people will they be? A rather infuriated Kania asked before adding.
“I know this confusion is being caused by a few misguided leaders. I am happy that the chairpersons of the two sub-counties are seated together; this shows maturity, an example that all must follow.
Kania explained that the disputed land had gathered people of all walks from Ayivu, Maracha, and Upper Terego who for a long time had integrated with the few original natives of the land.
Obiga also blamed the police for being part of the problem “One of the duties of police is to prevent crime but you want crime to happen first, why don’t you call these people on a Friday, take them to Arua for questioning and release them on Monday afternoon? Why are you waiting for trouble? He queried.
He claimed that ‘a few known names keep coming up’ and wondered whether the police were waiting to pick dead bodies with their vehicles.
Ewanga, despite its distance from both Arua and Yumbe district headquarters in a very remote location, has its dispute still unresolved to date.
Reports of potential oil deposits that when explored come with big economic benefits have only infiltrated the public domain to stir more strife.
For Palorinya and O’dobu, benefits that accrue to refugee-hosting communities have had a great impact although fighting political leaders always rally behind other factors.
“I have seen wars been fought in some areas about funds attracted due to refugee influx and this is not pleasant, we have in the recent past brought shame on us”, Said Mr Martin Andua, Arua district principal assistant secretary in a recent meeting at the district headquarters.
The Obongi-Moyo conflict much cantered on Dr Joyce Moriku, the Moyo district woman MP, Mr Williams Anyama, the district chairman and Mr Kaps Hassan Fungaroo, the Obongi county MP.
Accusations and counter-accusations traded in the due course between the parties but was the bottom line an issue to do with refugee funds?
“To me the reason that we don’t understand the language is irrelevant, that is somebody’s reasoning because these people have been living together” Gen Moses Ali, the first deputy prime minister recently stated.
This after a petition by one Mr Luke Erwaga, a resident of Obongi on grounds of language indifferences wants Palorinya Sub-county, which hosts over 150,000 refugees be reverted to Moyo district.
“This issue of refugees who are tomorrow going back should not cause differences and in any case, it’s only the parliament that changes the boundaries”, Gen Ali advised.
Mr Christopher Barugahare, the regional police commander for the West Nile region remained coy when asked whether the police knows those perpetuating conflicts in the disputed areas as claimed by Minister Kania.
He however says the force will not hesitate to act once there is violence or a clear intention to cause the same if there is sufficient evidence.
“Inciting violence is a crime under the penal code and if we have information, we can arrest and take you to court; If you cause chaos or go and attack or kill people, you will be responsible, illegal processions and unlawful processions can also be prosecuted under the penal code”, he further stated.
The regional police boss appeals to communities and Local Councils (LCs) to provide the force with timely information in case of any potential conflicts.
“In the case of Ewanga, we sensitized the people to remain calm and told them not to be misled by any selfish interest, they listened and so far, there has been no other problem”, Barugahare says.
Mr Lonzino Etrima, the LC III chairman of Uriama, one of the sub-counties embroiled in the O’dobu saga expresses disappointment over the delays in the border demarcations.
Mr Etrima, when asked whether the affected communities were living in fear due to the tensions, says no one who has no ill intention should live in fear.