Community blocks Arua district councilors from accessing proposed headquarters
todayAugust 26, 2021
By Federick Dramadri
A planned move by Arua district council to visit the two proposed sites for the district’s headquarter came to a standstill just after residents in the surrounding villages of Tilevu and Alio laid road blocks to prevent the councilors saying parts of the land in Odumi Headquarter belongs to them. The district councilors started their visit at Arivu Sub county headquarters, which is one of the proposed sites. Here the community welcomed them with loud music, cheers all over, provided comfort, and decorated the offices labelled in accordance with the departments but this left some of the councilors wondering saying. “We have not come here for a launch, we have come for a different purpose who told them here is the District headquarter? One of the councilors said.
Residents protest. Shortly after a successful tour of the land in Arivu Sub County, the councilors left for Vurra County Headquarter at Odumi where a short briefing was done with the members of community who alleged that they were denied a chance to raise their concerns. However, the councilors led by the LC 1 chairperson of Alio village were shocked to see tree cuttings laid horizontally with an order from the residents ‘DON’T CROSS, GO BACK’. The residents presented a court injunction from Arua Chief Magistrate Court restraining construction on at least 7 hectares of land in Odumi, which is currently embroiled in land conflicts in which no structures should be established on it. “Since they wanted to do things in a kangaroo style without contacting us, we will not allow then come here and disorganize our life here. If they say this government land then they should also produce documents for this land to prove that the land is theirs. Court injunctions prohibit them to raise any building on two pieces of land including 15 hectares in Alio village and 7 hectares in Tivu village”, area residents said.
Background In 2012, councilors from Vurra initiated the process of district status from Arua district whose headquarters was to be in Arivu but this failed as the matter was not graced by Parliament. In 2016, the district council reaffirmed the decision made in 2012 and forwarded with the minutes and the district headquarter for Vurra district was still stated to be in Arivu. But due to the creation of Arua City among the regional cities in Uganda in July 2020, Terego County departed as an independent district and Ayivu County was annexed to Arua City as a division, leaving Vurra County as the residual Arua district. Meanwhile the District Executive Committee DEC was tasked to assess the Arivu Sub county headquarters as the district headquarter and submit a report to the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Local Government for implementation but the DEC decided to submit the name of Vurra County Headquarter in Odumi over Arivu which never featured in the council minutes of 2012 and 2016 . This attracted petition from a section of the councilors including Luiji Candini councilor representing the people of Ajia Sub county to Arua district council as the lead petitioner which prompted the permanent secretary ministry of local government to task the councilor to visit the two lands of Odumi and Arivu and come up with a comprehensive report on each to make an informed decision. Currently, the exact area for the establishment of Arua district headquarters remains in contention. Luiji Candini, the councilor representing the people of Arivu Sub County said without the petition the District Executive Committee would have done disservice to the population. “If we had not petitioned, the council would not have taken an initiative to compare the two areas. Im happy and appeal that the will of the locals must be respected during decision making”, he said. The Chairperson Social Services Arua district council Natalia Drateru who is equally the Female councilor representing the people of Arivu Sub County expressed fears that a few people who have interest in the district headquarter are the ones are confusing the council. “Lack of trust and respect for earlier decisions made is the one bringing this challenges for us the councilors. The DEC members seem to have brought all these confusions but we shall not get tired of following the matter to the last”, she said. However the district Chairperson Arua Alfred Okuonzi called off the exercise saying consultations are on high gear to sort out the issue of the district headquarter.
COVER PHOTO: Some of the community members during the heated exchange with Arua district leaders. Photo by Federick Dramadri.