Archbishop John Baptist Odama of Gulu has castigated leaders of Madi and Adjumani for failing to speak the truth to end the Apaa land conflict.
Addressing pilgrims from Gulu Archdiocese, Nebbi, Arua, and Lira dioceses (GANAL) at Indriani Holy Cross Shrine in Adjumani District at the weekend, Archbishop Odama said: “There is still one area in our province which is still in a state of violence, division, and lack of peace that is Apaa. I am asking all the GANAL to pray for Apaa.”
He added: “It is the truth that will make us free. That issue can only be solved by talking the truth about that place and listening to the people who live there. The Acholis and Madis have intermarried and stayed together for many years.”
The Christians were celebrating 110 years of the Catholic faith.
Archbishop Odama also urged leaders across the divide to work together to restore peace in Apaa.
In August 2018, President Museveni visited the area and proposed the relocation of Acholi with compensation and the acquisition of alternative land in Adjumani to settle the evictees.
He also ordered that settlers already occupying Apaa Trading Centre must not extend into Zoka Forest.
However, while meeting political and civil leaders from Lango and Acholi sub-regions at Barlegi State Lodge in Okwang Sub-county, Otuke District in June, the President accused political leaders in Acholi of fuelling the clashes.
Mr Museveni said some of them were spreading malicious and misleading information that escalated the conflict.
The Adjumani vice chairman, Mr Richard Kaijuka, said the Acholi and Madi should co-exist since they have lived together for many years.
“I request all the religious leaders to go to Apaa and preach the gospel of peace and co-existence, we are one,” he said.
Mr William Amanzuru Leslie, the team leader of Friends of ZOKA, a conservation organisation, reiterated the Bishop’s plea, saying truth is prudent in resolving the conflict.
In 2015, the government started demarcating the administrative boundaries between Amuru and Adjumani districts to restore sanity among the two communities.
In 2017, the government handed over the land to Adjumani, sparking a series of clashes between the two communities. At least 23 people of both Madi and Acholi origin have cumulatively died since 2012 when the first attack occurred in the area.
Mr Edward Idro, 34, and Mr Luke Tako, 46, all residents of Aliwara Village, Mungula Parish in Itirikwa Sub-county, Adjumani, were the latest victims to die from an attack that occurred on September 20 at Labala Parish last year.
While the government has continued to sustain its stance to evict residents on allegations that they illegally occupy part of the protected East Madi Game Reserve and Zoka Forest land, repeated attempts to do so have ended in bloodshed.