Apaa: Acholi leaders split over rejected relief food

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Problems for the thousands of residents displaced in last week’s bloody clashes between the Madi and Acholi seem far from over, with the residents now rejecting the 400 bags of beans and posho government delivered on Tuesday to relieve them from starvation.

The rejection has now put at odds the cultural, political and central government leaders, with Acholi cultural institution premier, Mr Ambrose Olaa, regretting his people’s outright and blunt scorn of government’s goodwill.

Following the tribal clashes in Zoka village, Adjumani District, the government through the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), delivered 200 bags of beans and 200 bags of posho to the displaced now accommodated at Apaa Trading Centre, Amuru District.

But the locals rejected the foodstuffs claiming it could be poisoned and also demanded the physical presence of premier Ruhakana Rugunda on site in order to appreciate their plight.

They also demanded enough non-food items, including tarpaulins, saucepans, and cups, provision of safe water and security to enable the 26,668 displaced persons resettle in their old homesteads.

In an interview with Daily Monitor on Thursday, Mr Olaa said the government dispatched the foodstuffs upon request by the people and it’s unfortunate that the residents have now rejected the foodstuffs upon delivery.

“The government should be given the benefit of the doubt. I do not think that the government can kill its own people through poisoning as it’s alleged. If the foodstuffs were unfit for human consumption; that would be understandable,” he said.

Prof Ogenga Latigo, the chairperson of the Acholi Parliamentary Group (APG) and also MP for Agago South, regretted that some leaders are making the locals to reject what could have helped them in time of dire need.

“ Our stand as APG was that government gives food items as an emergency as other measures are being looked into, but if the food items have now been rejected, one would ask, what do they want now?”
Prof Latigo urged the government to withdraw the food and examine it before they deal with the matter, while the Amuru Resident District Commissioner, Mr Bilak Jalmoro, said he is waiting for guidance from the OPM for the next course of action.

“There are some leaders who incited the locals to reject the food items, and we feel it’s wrong to make people suffer,” he said. But Mr Martin Adong, one of the residents, said what they needed was non-food items such as tarpaulins, saucepans, and cups.
“We have rejected the food, it could be poisoned by government agents who are interested in our ancestral land,” Mr Odong said.

Another displaced person, Mr Patrick Obiya, said he wants the food tested first before he can accept it. He adds that given what has happened, he thinks the government cannot be trusted since they have failed to protect them during the attacks last week that left at least six people dead and left 21 severely wounded. The attackers, believed to be from the Madi community, used machetes, spears, bows and arrows.

Mr Anthony Akol, the Kilak North County MP, said he would write to premier Ruhakana Rugunda about the demands of his people.

“I will go by the resident’s resolution since I can’t force them to receive what they don’t want,” he said.

Mr Micheal Lakony, the Amuru District Council chairperson, said he respects the wishes of the people and he will inform the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) in due course as MPs from Amuru brief the government on the decision of the people of Apaa.

Mr Lakony said they cannot force people to receive what they do not want, adding that the foodstuffs will be locked in store at Apaa until all matter has been resolved.

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