Census suspended due to border disputes

The national census has been suspended in a part of Palorinya sub-county where county leaders Obongi and Moyo claim ownership.

The disputed area is partly occupied by refugees from South Sudan living in the Palorinya refugee settlement.

Mr Faruk Edema, one of the enumerators in Obongi District, said two districts deployed separate counting teams, which caused tension and confusion.

“We (counters) were arrested and taken to Ramogi sub-district headquarters for detention by civilians. My body hurts from the beating. And now I fear for my life because the exercise is not safe,” he said.

One of the locals, who did not want to give his name for fear of reprisals, said: “We don’t know if we will be counted.” This confusion created by politicians with their selfish interests will cause us to miss services. We are not sure whether we are counted as Obongi or Moyo district.”

The Obongi Resident District Commissioner, Mr Samuel Mpimbaza Hashaka, said the affected villages include Kochi Boma and Mureria.

“Weapons came out. Agitated people exchanged blows and others threatened to lynch Obongi census officials. That’s why we had to stop the activity,” he said.

Land and border conflicts have also hampered the ongoing exercise in other parts of West Nile, among other things.

Areas of conflict include Apaa land, where Adjumani and Amuru districts face off; Waka and Kali, the areas bordering Yumbe and Obongi; and areas of Ocea Municipality in Rigbo Sub-county where Madi-Okollo is contesting against Terego County.

Also affected are some villages in Kerwa sub-county in Yumbe district on the border between Uganda and South Sudan, which are claimed by people on both sides of the border.

The Chairman of Madi-Okollo District, Mr Ismail Drabe, said census officials deployed in some villages of Ocea Municipality were interrupted by Terego District officials who claimed that these areas belonged to them.

“The people of Terego felt that the places where we do the census belong to them. I don’t know why they stopped her. We are conducting census activities in the areas claimed by them and deploying security forces to guard the enumerators,” he said.

For his part, the MP for Terego East and State Minister for Urban Planning, Mr. Mario Obiga Kania, said: “People should be allowed to be counted in their villages even if there are conflicts in those areas.” We do not need bloodshed because of the census. It should be peaceful.”

The Chairman of Kerwa Sub-county in Yumbe, Mr. Moses Abajo, said five villages in the district have been claimed by people from South Sudan.

“Enumerators are expected to reach these disputed areas today (Sunday), but for now there has been calm at the border since the census began. Calm has continued since the army was deployed to the border due to ongoing tensions in the region. I expect there will be no confusion at the border during the census,” he said.

In Adjumani District, counting exercises in the contested Apaa area began successfully on the second day after they could not be started on the first day due to logistical problems.

District planner and census officer, Mr Fred Moini, said: “The enumerators only face linguistic challenges as this area is inhabited by different people who speak different languages.” We have spoken to the police and the Residents District Office Commissioner worked together to ensure that calm prevails in the area.”

The Chairman of Itirikwa Sub-county, Mr Jesus Iranya, said the exercise in Mungula township for the enumerators only posed transportation problems as the community was vast and the enumerators might not be able to traverse it easily.

Compiled by Felix Warom Okello, Robert Elema, Scovin Iceta, Taibot Marko and Clement Aluma