Land dispute between Soroti University, residents deepens


Soroti- The land wrangle between Soroti University and the aggrieved residents of Apuuton village has deepened with the recent destruction of more properties, despite a court injunction stopping any form of violence against either party.
The continued bickering over the 110 acre piece of land has also drawn in politicians including Members of Parliament who at the weekend went on a fact-finding mission to ascertain what is on ground.
According to Mr Geresem Eotu, the leader of the 130 aggrieved residents of Apuuton village, Arapai Sub-county who are claiming ownership of the disputed land, the latest destruction of people’s houses was instigated by goons allegedly hired by the university.
Mr Eotu alleged that there is high conspiracy between members of the taskforce overseeing the construction of Soroti University and police.
He faults the police for allegedly failing to enforce the court injunction on the land.

“We want development but it shouldn’t come to rob us of our property. Dehumanizing us, torture over our land, throwing military uniforms in our compounds to find ways of arresting us on falsified claims of being rebels should be condemned,” he claimed.
In justification of the aforementioned, Mr Eotu explained that one of the residents, Mr James Okaja, discovered a gun magazine and an army uniform in his compound.
He said Mr Okaja was later arrested, tortured to near death and despite being released on bail, he was rearrested by the police on fictitious charges of murder.
Residents also accused the secretary of the university task force, Ms Ruth Acimo, of hiring assailants to torture them and destroy their homes.
However, when contacted, Ms Acimo denied the allegations.

Ms Acimo noted that the presence of squatters on the university land frustrates the development of the institution.
Speaking to Daily Monitor about the issue, Mr Michael Odongo, the East Kyoga police spokesperson, said police has always acted in the interest of both parties on the disputed land.
He said police are still investigating the destruction of people’s homes. “We as police have not been involved in any isolated torture of people in Apuuton, ours has always been intervention,” Mr Odongo explained.
Mr Eotu also alleged that Mr Pro Robert Ikoja, the university task force chairperson, is the owner of the disputed land having bought it from a one James Ocen at Shs19m.
Mr Ikoja admitted buying the land four years ago but said he did not know it belonged to the university.

The controversy surrounding the disputed land later caused the suspension of Soroti RDC, Filbert Ocailap. This was after it emerged that the university secretary accused him before State House of conniving with the residents to frustrate the university.
But Ocailap maintains that his role was to workout modalities of seeing that residents are compensated, well knowing the case was before court.
Justice David Batema, the resident judge of Soroti High Court, who is presiding over the main court case in this land dispute, advised that the Soroti local government should come forth to pronounce itself over the matter.
“This would look to be prejudice because the case over this land is before me, but I am here to invoke you to give a clear position from Soroti local government on the land, “Justice Batema advised the Teso leaders.
Meanwhile Teso Parliamentary Group (TPG) members have resolved that the Soroti task force members overseeing the construction of the university be disbanded over what they have called inhumane suffering they have caused on the residents.
The MPs during the tour of the contested land led by Patrick Okabe, the TPG chairperson also recommended that the taskforce members who allegedly hired goons to destroy people’s homes be brought to book. Among other resolutions that the members agreed to have the old boundaries of Teso College opened, to ascertain where block 50 that comprises of 460 acres ends.

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