One civilian was shot dead and a Police officer left injured as Police engaged in running battles with locals of Erussi Sub County in Nebbi district.
The Thursday incident erupted after a team of surveyors from the Ministry of Water and Environment accompanied by the district leaders stormed Jupageni upper village in Payera parish to conduct a survey for the water project.
The district secured sh3b funding from the Ministry of Water to establish a gravity-flow water scheme to supply safe and affordable water to the sub counties of Erussi, Atego, and Ndhew.
Jupageni upper village was then identified as the suitable site for the project according to Geoffrey Okaka, the Nebbi district Chief Administrative Officer.
But, the locals rejected the move, arguing that it would drain water from the well supplying an existing borehole in the area.
The incident was the climax of underlying anger and showdowns between the locals and the district leaders over time.
Two previous attempts by leaders in the district to convince the locals to accept the project never yielded results, with the latest attempt coming on Tuesday.
“We tried three times and they objected, but the district felt they could not allow such a project to go away like that when people lack water,” Okaka said.
According to Collins Jalacida, the Erussi LC3 chairman, locals stood their ground to protect a borehole drilled at the same area with support a white man who married a woman in the area.
He explained that on seeing the team of the surveyors with Police, the locals mobilized to interrupt the process of surveying the area.
Jalacida added that the situation got tense and in an attempt to quell the surging crowd Police fired tear gas and live bullets killing one person instantly.
“The community was so hostile, Police tried to quell them but unfortunately, one person was killed,” he said.
Jalacida identified the deceased as Julius Osaga, 25, a resident of Jupageni village.
Erussi, Atego and Ndhew sub counties which always face acute shortage of safe and clean water according to Jalacida.
Josephine Angucia, the West Nile spokesperson confirmed Osaga’s death.
She however rejected talk of it being a deliberate move by Police to kill the civilian saying the deceased could have been struck by a stray bullet.
She said two Policemen and a sub county intelligent officer have been arrested over the matter. Angucia, however, did not disclose the identities of the officers.
“It’s true on person was killed as Police tried to contain a mob, but also two of our officers and a GISO of the sub county are already in custody,” she said.
Osaga’s death attracted wide array of condemnations from both the political and business community in Nebbi district given that it’s not the first time locals in Erussi are objecting to water projects.
The sh56b Alwi dry corridor project that was supposed to be established at Oboth in Erussi was also rejected by locals.
Local leaders who had gone for a consultative meeting were pelted with stone and wipe with itchy grass. The project was later shifted to Nebbi Sub County.
Grace Owonda, the woman councillor representing Erussi described the development as nasty and uncalled for, adding that those behind the fracas should be arrested and prosecuted.
She claimed that there was an invisible hand that was inciting the locals to reject the project.