Apaa land: Minister Onek apologises over remarks

Sunday June 2, 2019

 

The Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees Minister, Mr Hillary Onek, has apologised over his statements on Apaa land, a contentious area bordering Amuru and Adjumani districts.


Mr Onek came under fire from a section of Acholi leaders on Wednesday during a meeting with President Museveni in Gulu Town where he told the President that some people had expressed willingness to relocate from Apaa land and be compensated.


The meeting was attended by more than 1,000 leaders comprising legislators, district and sub-county chairpersons, district and municipal councillors, heads of departments and leadership of NRM structures, to discuss issues affecting the region.


Mr Onek, during the meeting, also told the President that the unending conflict over the 825 square kilometres land was a result of some leaders’ bad politics.


His statements, however, did not go down well with a section of the leaders in attendance, who accused him of portraying his bias.


They said this made him unsuitable as member of an adhoc committee selected by President Museveni to seek a lasting solution to the Apaa land conflict.


Mr Michael Lakony, the Amuru District chairperson, following Mr Onek’s statement, walked out of the meeting in protest.


He told Sunday Monitor in an interview on Thursday that he could not stand Mr Onek’s statement, saying it was biased.


“I feel so sad one of our own is giving wrong information even when he hasn’t met with the people he claimed are interested in leaving Apaa land. His statement is biased and baseless,” Mr Lakony said.


Mr Martin Ojara Mapenduzi, the Gulu District chairperson, who presented the Acholi LC5 chairpersons in the meeting, said Mr Onek’s statement leaves a lot of question on credibility of the new Apaa land committee.


“It’s unfortunate that [Mr] Onek is making such a statement when he is one of the member in this new committee. This puts a lot of questions on the committee, we are very disturbed by the utterances and condemn it,” Mr Ojara said.
He added that as Acholi leaders, they demand for an apology from Mr Onek.


Speaking to Sunday Monitor in an interview on Friday, Mr Onek, however, apologised over his remarks adding that it was prematurely delivered at the meeting.


Mr Onek disclosed that he was approached by two locals from Apaa who told him they were in agreement with government directives for relocation and compensation of those occupying the land and that they would be willing to relocate.


“I received some residents from Apaa who came to my office to table their position. They told me they would be willing to relocate if they are adequately compensated. I told them it’s fine if they are ready I will take them to the ad hoc committee where their position will be heard and decided upon. That is what I reported to the president on Wednesday,” he said.


He added: “But when I mentioned some people, the district chairperson of Amuru sprung up and shouted at me. They mistook my presentation to mean everyone yet I meant a section of the people wanted to relocate.”


Mr Onek said it was a mistake he made the statement publicly and prematurely minus addressing it to the adhoc committee chairperson where they would internalise it.
The deputy Speaker of Parliament, Mr Jacob Oulanyah