By Steven Enatu
The process to verify and consequently pay Teso War claimants is once again shrouded in accusations and counter accusations.
The twists and turns were evident in a meeting convened by the Attorney General at Soroti Hotel on Saturday and attended by most leaders in Teso.
Those in attendance included MPS from Teso, Local Council Five Chairpersons, RDC’s DISO’s and some claimants. The meeting was intended to iron out some issues especially of lists of some of the verified names missing in the current list.
The first point of contention was raised by famous Teso lawyer, Richard Omongole who argued that there were discrepancies between the list he has and that presented by the Attorney General. Omongole insists that the Attorney General’s list is full of strangers. The list presented by the Attorney General is that of Teso Animal and Property Claimants Organization (TAPCO) group that originally had over 70,000 names and over 30,000 were removed during verification due to lack of proper credentials as genuine claimants.
There are a number of lists presented by different groups in Teso all clamoring to be among the first to be paid. These include; One led by Kasilo County MP Elijah Okupa which has been pursuing the reparations in court since 2002.
The second group is the Teso Animal and Property Compensation (TAPCO) that has been pushing for compensations since 2010. Around the same time another group of 205,000 led by the outgone Kapelebyong County MP, Mr. Julius Ochen, and three other groups led by John Oluka and nine others, Mr Elijah Okupa and 2020 others, and Mr Imodot Edim and 105 others jointly sued government at Soroti High Court.
A separate group led by Mr Jereson Eotu and others sued the government in 2010 for Shs35b through Kampala Associated Advocates.
The Attorney General in response said that the government is running a process and therefore people should not be in conflict over whose list is being started with.
The other issue that came out prominently is extortion of claimants by Local Council One Chairpersons.
Hon. Alfred Elalu Olale Edakasi, the MP Kaberamaido County said that his office received a report that some local council one Chairpersons are charging claimants money ranging from 70,000shs for a stamp with reference to a case that happened in Palatau Parish, Alwa sub county.
Edakasi asked the people to be vigilant by reporting those who are extorting money from them as they process papers for verification.
He added that as leaders their role is to ensure that they serve their community.
Ngora woman MP, Hon. Stella Isodo said that in her constituency, a claimant was charged up to 200,000shs by the local council one chairperson in the process of verifying his letters.
She said the issue is becoming immense in Teso as many people are moving around purporting to be from the office of the Attorney General while others masquerade as people from the offices of the RDC’s conning money from the claimants.
The Government through the Attorney general’s office has allocated 50billion to first start the compensation issue in Teso in the first phase beginning in Jan 2022.
Emmy Mitala, the RDC Kumi said if the process is delayed, many people will lose money to the unsuspecting people and this will cause a financial loss again to the claimants.
To address the issue of discrepancies over whose list is going to be compensated first, Teso leaders together with the office of the attorney general agreed that the compensation start as more people are being registered for verification to benefit in the second and other phases.
Hon Anthony Esenu the MP for Kapelebyong District said that those whose names are missing in the list should be patient and wait for another phase.
Meanwhile the Attorney General, Hon Kiryowa Kiwanuka said that Government has availed shs150 billion in the 2021/2022 financial year, for payment of claimants in the three regions, Teso, Lango and Acholi.
“This exercise has been going on for a long time and there has always been an attempt to complete the whole exercise as one and then start paying, but that has delayed the process. Let us start with the ones we have as we continue the verification exercise,” said the Attorney General.
He added that the Government has a list of 92,652 claimants as beneficiaries who are not in dispute with 16,946 of these from Acholi, 42,042 from Lango and 33,664 from Teso.
He also reiterated that no beneficiary should pay money to the local council leaders as they process the documents. He said that the government is ready to start compensation in Jan 2022.
“Our society is getting rotten, people are looking for all the opportunities to rob, even robbing the dead, when they find a dead body and check the pocket first,” he said.