Abim/Agago. Tension has erupted between authorities of Abim and Agago districts over the ownership of a strip of land at the border between the two districts.
The contested land is at Kamrono, Kuludwong and Kaket villages in Lapono Sub-county as well as at Lawiereng in Adilang Sub-county, all in Agago District.
Both Lapono Sub-county and Agago District authorities accuse Abim District chairperson Jimmy Ochero of allegedly fanning the conflict.
According to Lapono LC3 chairperson Mathew Lagen tension erupted two weeks ago when Abim District authorities drilled two boreholes, about four kilometres inside Ocegolamero Village at Kuludwong in Lapono Sub-county.
“When we saw this, I alerted the district authorities who were equally not aware. When we went to the site, we found that it was Abim that sent the company to put up boreholes there and we stopped them because the place is outside their territory,” Mr Lagen says.
He says Abim District officials had extended their claims to parts of Ligiligi East Village in Adilang Sub-county.
According to the Land Conflict Mapping Tool (LCMT), a project undertaken by Human Rights Focus, Lawiereng, Ligiligi Central and Ligiligi East that are affected by the conflicts, is administratively governed under Ligiligi Parish in Adilang Sub-county while Oburgulu and Kuludwong are governed under Kaket Parish in Lapono Sub county.
Child injured in clashes
A nine-year-old child was last week rushed to Kalongo Hospital in Agago District after he was hit by an arrow during clashes that broke off between residents of Kamrono in Paimol Sub-county.
Kamrono stretches from Abim Sub-county and crosses beyond River Agago into Paimol Sub-county where Abim District authorities now claim ownership.
According to Mr Ray Okwir, the Agago Resident District Commissioner, tension initially erupted among residents of the district but it escalated after incitment from Abim leaders.
“There were physical fights among locals and a child was hit with an arrow and admitted at Kalongo Hospital. This was all because the leaders from the other side (Abim) were inciting them,” he says.
Mr Okwir says colonial maps placed Agago River as boundary of the two districts, stretching up to Lapono hills “but we don’t know yet who advised them because leaders of Abim headed by their chairman (Mr Jimmy Ochero) drilled boreholes 4km across the river inside Agago District.”
But Mr Ochero says his leadership is not ready to sit and watch neighbouring districts take their land.
“It is not just a war with neighbours as it is being portrayed.That land belongs to us. We shall not allow anybody to just come in and take it. I even told my minister for Local Government that basing on the provisions of the law, I am supposed to keep the district, wellbeing of the people including what they own,” he says.
Mr Ochero says much as the areas where they drilled boreholes are under contention, it belonged to Abim but they had agreed with Agago over means to ensure peace and harmony while they wait for the Ministry of Lands to resolve the issue.
“Even if these contested areas are in Abim, we shall only determine the administrative boundaries which will not change ownership. Should the land be found to be in Abim or vice versa, it will not necessitate the occupants to vacate,” he notes.
Leaders sign deal
Meanwhile, Mr Okwir says last Monday leaders of the two districts signed an agreement during the joint district security committee meeting at Amita Prison farm to bring the boundary conflict in the area to an end.
He says they have also agreed to invite the Lands’ ministry to do demarcations to settle the conflict.
During his 2016 campaigns, Mr Jimmy Ochero, the Abim District chairperson, promised to reclaim all land that had been taken away by districts neighbouring Abim.
Agago becomes the third district that Abim is getting into conflict with over boundaries after it accused Otuke and Kotido districts, of establishing administrative units inside Abim District.
In April this year, it was upon the intervention of the Lands minister, Ms Betty Amongi, that a violent conflict over border line was settled between Otuke and Abim districts.