Residents of Lungulu and Got Opwoyo Sub-counties in Nwoya District are living in fear following deployment of UPDF soldiers to guard several farms owned by individuals involved in land wrangles.
The residents in the two sub-counties also accuse the deployed soldiers of harassing them and evicting them from their land.
Lungulu Sub-county is more affected with several farms being guarded by the army.
The farms that are being guarded include Tima farm owned by Ms Harriet Aber, Opiyo Oloya’s farm, Katatye farm belonging to Mr Micheal Pogy and Got Kware farm of Mr Odongkware. Soldiers are also deployed on the farm of the Reserve Forces Commander, Maj Gen Charles Otema Awany.
The UPDF Fourth Division intelligence officer, Lt Col Patrick Opira, who visited the affected areas, confirmed the soldiers had been deployed but said he had no knowledge about their presence in the two sub-counties.
“We have never given the green light to any UPDF soldier to get into guarding private farms in the area. UPDF is recognised internationally as the most professional and well-disciplined army. We cannot afford to get into such activities of eviction and assaulting people we are meant to protect,” he said.
One of the affected residents, Mr Joseph Odongpiny, who has a land wrangle with Mr Pogy, accused the soldiers guarding Mr Pogy’s farm of impounding his goats and chicken.
“Mr Pogy has extended boundaries to other people’s land and as we tried to seek for audience, he decided to bring soldiers who are now stealing from us and assaulting us at the same time,” he said.
Mr Odongpiny added: “We now want the leaders to help us, otherwise with this forceful eviction accompanied by assault, we shall end up being pushed back to internally displaced people’s camps,” he said
In response, Mr Pogy, instead accused senior government officials he didn’t name of inciting people to encroach on his land.
“These locals are being backed up by some big shots in government, threatening me that if I take them to court they will win the case. It’s on this basis that I reached out to one army officer to help me with the soldiers on my farm to stop those who encroach on my land,” he said.
Ms Jacqueline Adokorach, a widow whose home has allegedly been destroyed by the soldiers guarding Ms Aber’s Farms in Tima Village, says apart from destroying her homestead, they have been denied access to their farmlands.
“On several occasions, we have tried to beg soldiers so that we can get into the farms but we have been blocked. They tell us that they are doing their duty,” she said.
Up to now we are begging Ms Aber to have a dialogue with us but she is instead using force through deploying UPDF on the ground and intimidating us,” she said.
When contacted, Ms Aber declined to comment, saying said she is “not a politician to speak to the media”.
The Local Council chairman of Katatye Village, Nyamukino Parish in Lungulu Sub-county, Mr David Ojok , said the situation is worrying.
Nwoya District LC5 chairperson Patrick Okello Oryema told Daily Monitor that senior UPDF officers had failed to address residents’ complaints over the deployment of the soldiers.
“We have received several complaints from the locals that UPDF soldiers who were deployed on several private farms in the district are terrorising the locals and we have on several occasions called UPDF, but no action has been taken,” he said.
The Nwoya Resident District Commissioner, who is also the district head of security, Mr John Robert Omuut, said the deployment did not follow the proper channels.
“When such deployment is ongoing, I should be informed but I am not aware,” Mr Omuut said. He added that he had written to the Ministry of Defence over the issue.
When Nwoya County MP Simon Oyet made an impromptu visit to the affected areas on Monday, he said it was wrong for soldiers to be used to guard private farms.