Nwoya. Ms Molly Ajok, 30, is pondering her next move after their hut was set ablaze in a land row that left more that 100 people homeless in Nwoya District.
Ms Ajok, a mother of three and a resident of Ceke Village, Koch- Lii sub-county, said her Shs4 million stolen as her grocery shop was broken into and her granary vandalised by armed men that attacked their area last Friday.
“We were attacked by the person who claims to be the owner of the land yet we have stayed here for the last 30 years, I was born in this village, raised and married here. I wonder how Mr Lalobo got the ownership of this land,” she said.
She adds that her husband Micheal Ongaba was stabbed in the back during the scuffle that left him hospitalised at Anaka Hospital in Nwoya District.
“My children cannot access education anymore since all the school requirement were destroyed when the hut was set on fire,” she says.
The land in dispute measures 1,140 acres and is being claimed by residents and a one Mr Vincent Latim Lalobo (son of deceased engineer Lalobo Lugwari).
The contested land has been the centre of dispute over the past two years.
The destruction suffered by Ms Ajok is not unique to her. Other residents also lost foodstuffs, and animals that they were allegedly loaded on a truck by the attackers.
Eleven huts were torched, 10 permanent buildings destroyed, 20 grannaries were destroyed and shops broken into.
Mr Charles Okello Lawat, one of the affected persons is still searching for the whereabouts of his nine-year-old son Gerald Oyat who went missing since that day. “As the place was attacked by armed police officers and soldiers, we took off to the bushes in different directions and up to now my son is missing,” he said.
“I have already reported the case of the disappearance of my son and my efforts to find him are still fruitless,” he added.
Another victim Mr Ocaya Laloka, a resident of Modo village who was present during the incident said the looting of their property was carried out in the presence of the Nwoya District Police Commander, Mr Daniel Okello.
He said the police was accompanied by men dressed like soldiers, unknown men with spears and pangas and Ms Jeneth Achiro, an auctioneer with Jed Court Bailiff and Auctioneer. Mr Ocaya added that the DPC commanded the firing of tear gas and live bullets before they proceeded to demarcate the boundary on the disputed land.
“They threatened us that they will come back for us if we do not vacate the place. We have nowhere to go. This has been our home over the years and this is still our home,” he said.
“As you see us here we have nothing and nowhere to begin from. The animals and the small business that we have been depending on and have been our only source of livelihood is no more,” he added.
He accused Mr Lalobo of failure to follow the right channels in land acquisition.
According to Ms Achiro, they went to demarcate the boundary basing on a court order that was issued by Gulu resident judge Vincent Okwanga early last year.
“All the stakeholders were served with the letters before the dermacation exercise was executed,” she said.
“The exercise was a success and I’m not aware of any attack on the locals, we went with 20 policemen and the boundary opening was commanded by Mr Okello, since the locals were known to be hostile toward boundary opening of which they actually blocked us and the DPC had to intervene to allow the exercise to be carried out,” Ms Achiro said.
Mr Okello told Daily Monitor that when Jed Court Bailiff and Auctioneer Associate came with the letter for boundary opening, they had to give them the reinforcement.
He added that the court order given by Justice Okwanga clearly indicated “boundary opening” and the police was asked to witness it.
“When we reached at the scene we first talked to the residents and proceeded to open the boundary that took them one hour and thirty minutes, I am not responsible for any attack on the locals neither are the police officers,” Mr Okello said.
He added that following the alleged attacks on the locals, Mr Lalobo has been charged with four counts of malicious damage, robbery and assault.