By: Ismael Kasooha


The Government of Uganda has issued a three months’ ultimatum for all the encroachers in East Madi Wildlife Reserve and Zoka Central Forest Reserve to vacate or face forceful eviction.

Apaa contested area which is located 8 kilometers in Adjumani is deep inside East Madi Wildlife protected area and the encroachers have been decreed to vacate voluntarily as soon as possible to avoid the wrath of forceful eviction.

This is contained in a cabinet decision communicated by the Prime Minister and Leader of Government Business Rt. Hon. Robinah Nabbanja while meeting leaders from Adjumani and Amuru Districts at Adjumani District headquarters on 15th February 2023.

The 40 square kilometer of the contested Apaa land is being claimed by Adjumani District in West Nile and Amuru in Northern Uganda as well as the Uganda Wildlife Authority-UWA, as part of the East Madi Game Reserve.

East Madi Wild Life Reserve which houses Zoka Central Forest Reserve covers an area of 827 square kilometers while Zoka Central Forest Reserve is estimated at 6147 hectares.

Speaking to leaders in a fully parked Council Hall on February 15, 2023, Nabbanja said “God will save us this time as we put the situation to rest once and for all”.

She was flanked by the 2nd Deputy Prime Minister Gen. Moses Ali, 3rd Deputy Prime Minister Rukia Nakadama, Minister of Lcal Government Raphael Magyezi, Minister for Security Maj. Gen. Jim Muhweezi, Justice and Constitutional affairs Minister Nobert Mao, and Minister of State for Northern Uganda Grace Kwiyucwiny.

“I’m here purposely to communicate the government position on Apaa to leaders so that we start the exercise with your support,” said Nabbanja.

She told the leaders that she had not gone to re-invent the wheel but rather build on what the government has done.

The Prime Minister announced that the cabinet has decided that all encroachers in East Madi Wildlife Reserve where Apaa is situated, and Zoka Central Foret Reserve be ordered to vacate without fear or favour.

Nabanja said that cabinet had endorsed and approved a resettlement package for the rightful claimants and 394 households had been enlisted for compensation.

She said beneficiary identification and selection have been carried out by the office of the Prime Minister and 71 households who acquired National Identification cards between 2013 and 2014 would receive sh.10m, 20 bags of cement, and 20 iron sheets while others would be paid sh2m.

“During the implementation period of the cabinet position on Apaa, the Office of the Prime Minister will undertake food distribution to both the encroachers for a period of six months which is adequate to cover the implementation period,” she explained.

According to the Prime Minister, the government positions cover the cabinet decision made in 2019 and 2022, the progress so far made and the purpose of the meeting is to fast-track decisions of the cabinet.

The Adjumani District chairman Anyama Ben declared that the people in Adjumani were willing to co-exist and stay together with their brothers and sisters in the Amuru District in the spirit of African unity.

Anyama said “the decision of the government will ensure the sustainability of nature for the benefit of future generations and also help generate considerable income to the government through tourism and legitimate trade in forest products,”.

The Minister of Local Government Raphael Magyezi said the government had instructed him to close the Apaa market and he had accordingly issued an ultimatum of one month for closure of the Apaa market.

Magyezi said all market vendors in Apaa and those who had constructed lock-ups must consider relocating to another market immediately.

The Prime Minister Rt. Hon. Nabbanja Robinah being recieved in Adjumani

The Adjumani Woman MP Ababiku Jesca said the pronouncement made by the government had restored hope among the people of the Madi sub-region and west Nile and pledged the total support of the leaders and the populace.

Apaa contested area has witnessed a spiral of violence after relative peace returned in Northern Uganda following over two decades of the insurgence of the Lord’s Resistance Army of Joseph Kony when post-insurgency resettlement was taking shape.

A group of people from Internally Displaced Peoples Camps in the Pabo sub-county flocked to the Apaa area in 2006 as more of their relatives who were attracted by the illicit trade in charcoal, lumbering, and logging, joined them in later years.

Leaders in the Amuru District started claiming ownership of the Apaa area leading to serious backlash from Madi leaders leading to the infamous battle of Gorobi River in March 2018 where the arrow shooting Madi vigilantes inflicted maximum causalities on the attacking Acholi forces.

On August 22,2018, President Yoweri Museveni addressed a rally in Apaa contested area and declared that is Apaa was located in East Madi Wildlife Reserve.

The storm appears to be over, but this largely depends on whether the ladders and the greater populace in Amuru will respect the position of the government and mobilize the populace for peace.

According to reports, varying perceptions by the Acholi and Madi ethnic communities, increased agitation and economic importance being attached to the contested area and political interest are major causes of the Apaa unrest.

Since 2012, deadly ethnic clashes between the Acholi and their neighboring Madi Community over Apaa land have resulted in deaths, several forced disappearances, injuries, and displacement of families.