UPDF assures Acholis, Madi of security

By Eddie Ssejjoba

"The President has already made pronouncements over this matter; the ministers are equally concerned with the escalating security situation in this area and are deliberating on the matter."

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ADJUMANI-The Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF) has assured the Acholis and Madi communities in the land conflict area of Zoka C in Adjumani district in Northern Uganda of total security amidst fears of further clashes and fighting between the two communities.

The deputy director of the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence, Brig. Henry Isoke said President Yoweri Museveni recently instructed the Prime Minister, Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda to constitute a team to assess the security situation in the area after receiving reports of continued attacks and clashes between the two communities.

Addressing separate meetings of Acholis and Madi communities in Zoka C area, Itirikwa sub county in Adjumani, Brig. Isoke said some of the prevailing issues concerning land were complex and complicated and therefore required government to take time to resolve them.

He led an interagency team, which included commanders from UPDF and the Police. The police team was led by the deputy director of operations, John Nuwagira.

Isoke however said government was concerned with reports of loss of life and property on either sides, but added that the army had decided to create a full battalion and a police company to take charge of the security in the area.

"The President has already made pronouncements over this matter; the ministers are equally concerned with the escalating security situation in this area and are deliberating on the matter."

"I want to take heart with you but the matter will be resolved, the same way we handled the LRA of Joseph Konya and ADF rebels in Western Uganda, they were defeated after some time. The Teso and Karamajong issues were also worked," he explained.

He assured people that delay to intervene did not mean government had forgotten them.

"Our purpose of coming here is to assess the situation and work on the security gaps, I want to assure you that we are going to address them," he said, adding that political leaders at a higher level were also in discussions to find a lasting solution to the problem.

He however warned residents to avoid turning criminal matters tribal, saying if an individual commits an offence, it should not be blamed on an entire group or tribe.

"We have clear indications that there are some elements here not observing the law, government is going to reinforce and re-assert state authority to deal with them," he said.

According to Brig. Isoke, leaders must preach peace and avoid inciting people on tribal grounds.

 "Anyone who wants to harass people on grounds of their tribe or religion will not be tolerated, leaders from the bottom to the top should preach unity and avoid mobilising people on tribal leanings," he told the meetings.

The team, which included UPDF senior commanders, military intelligence, internal security, Uganda Wildlife Authority soldiers and the Police, CID officers first held a meeting at the Zoka Center military detach.

They later met the Acholis community members who are camped at Zoka C Trading Center, about 300 meters from the Madi community point. The Madi community is currently gathered at a makeshift point, formerly homes and gardens of Acholis who were forced out.

But there were concerns that no one was free to cross what is now a ‘red line', with the Acholis community being guarded by soldiers.

Police spokesman, Fred Enanga who was part of the team said before deployments, the Police were getting complaints of continuous burning of houses and constant attacks, looting and robbery, which he said had turned Zoka C into a lawless area.

"There was no rule of law here yet our manpower on the ground was insufficient," he said, adding that the Police deployed 100 police personnel in four different places to guard the area. He also said the Police were barring groups from ferrying in more people from outside to settle in the area.

He said the Police detected that some groups were ferrying in unknown people to form a militia in order to attack others.

"Our mission is to prevent any further ferrying of people and arrows and bows. We have also increased the number of detectives and now encourage victims to report cases so that they can be investigated and files taken to court," he said.

The police have also increased on the intelligence network to detect threats. "We came with a message of re-assurance and to let people get a level of confidence," he said.