By Steven Enatu
A new report from State House has revealed that the series of evictions of the 16,000 Iteso living in Morualogwangat, Opopongo Sub County in Abim District was illegal.
This was revealed by Vincent Ochen, the Executive Director Sugur Development Agency yesterday in an exclusive interview. Ochen said the illegal evictions were carried out without the knowledge of Uganda Wildlife Authority.
The unlawful eviction of the Iteso from Abim was first done in December 15th -27th 2019 and the second on the 10th Feb 2021 by UWA game rangers led by captain Charles Okhuta on false allegations that they were occupying the game reserve land.
During the eviction, women were raped, houses destroyed and gardens of crops by the rangers.
The Iteso who had lived in Morulokwang land covering 24 villages and 7 parishes lost properties worth billions according to Simon Okiror Aloysius Oriada, one of the evictees.
According to Vincent Ochen, Sugur Development Agency and other Civil Societies have been doing research and making follow ups with State House seeking redress.
He reveals that their intervention attracted the attention of State House having received reports from them as civil societies and the State House Independent Investigators.
He said a meeting was convened on the 26th of March 2021 amongst the civil societies led by him on behalf of evictees, State House and the director legal services UWA.
“In that meeting, the director legal services UWA apologized saying they were not aware of any eviction in Abim,” Ochen said.
Ochen said the Director Legal Services at UWA argued that they only carry out evictions after giving court orders to people occupying a game reserve.
The matter has however been taken to Soroti High Court with Ssaalam Ngobi, the Assistant Registrar Soroti High court issuing a court order granting the evictees to sue Captain Okhuta.
The order dated 27th April 2021 gives permission to Solomon Okiror Aloysius Oriada and 2000 other complainants to sue Captain Charles Okhuta as an individual, the Attorney General and Uganda Wild Life Authority. The complainants here seek compensation of the raped women, gardens of crops destroyed and peace in their land.
Currently the majority of the evictees are living in Koblin Internally Displaced Camp in Napak and others with their relatives. They have now been given green light to reoccupy their land this Month after a security assessment of the area in question by State House.
Solomon Oriada Aloysius Oriada the lead applicant in the case who also doubles as the chairperson representing the Iteso in Abim told our reporter that Okhuta had evicted them from the land that they even own land agreements of purchase.
“We want to go back to our land now, we only need security because sometimes they use guns to threaten us but if we get security we shall settle back in peace,” he said.
Okiror said he lost properties worth hundreds of millions in form of food crops in the garden, plantation of trees and other household items should be compensated.
A 16 year old Benna Achen one of the affected school girls said schools like Morulogwang community school and churches were burnt by the game rangers under command of Captain Charlse Okhuta.
“Women were raped by the game rangers, others even conceived,” she said.
Andrew Otim the councilor Opopongo Sub County also a victim said they are going to follow all the necessary peaceful steps in resettling on their land.
“I bought my land their 30 hectares and have lived there since 2015,” he said.