13 August 2016

Police, district boss raid war claimants meeting

NWOYA- Nwoya District chairperson Patrick Okello Oryema and the district police commander, Mr Dan Komakech, on Wednesday stormed the district council hall to protest a planned meeting by Acholi War Debt Claimants Association (AWDCA) members.

The AWDCA chairperson, Mr Noah Opwonya, and other executive members, were scheduled to hold the meeting which the district boss and the police commander said was illegal.

Mr Oryema accused Mr Opwonya and his association members of trying to take advantage of the claimants and threatened to arrest them on account that they had not notified the district administration or the police about the meeting.

More than 100 claimants were also present for the meeting when the duo struck.

Mr Oryema claimed Mr Opwonya was trying to extort money from the claimants by promising them cash compensation contrary to the government’s directive last year. He said the government pledged all war debt claimants would receive money directly on their bank accounts unlike in the past when they did through the association.

“We are not going to allow any association to lie to the desperate people promising them that they will be paid through the association. The government clearly indicated everyone would be paid directly through their accounts to avoid any scandals,” Mr Oryema said.

He said the association’s actions were frustrating the ongoing government compensation process.

However, in an interview with Sunday Monitor on Thursday, Mr Opwonya dismissed Mr Oryema’s allegations and said the claimants had come for their annual general meeting to elect new leaders after the tenure of the current executive members elapsed.

“I didn’t plan that meeting. I am already an outgoing chairperson of the association and I was only invited like any other member for the election of the new executive,” he said.

The AWDCA chairperson in Nwoya, Mr Aldo Abwola, accused the police and the district chairman of frustrating their process of electing the association’s new office bearers at the district level.

“The meeting was aimed at having new leadership in place that will see the members receive their cash,” he said.
“We were surprised that the meeting was disrupted,” Mr Abwola added.

In a telephone interview, the Principal State Attorney, Mr Henry Oluka, who is in charge of compensation, cautioned AWDCA leaders against lying to claimants that they would be paid through the association.

“Whatever that association is doing, they are doing it at their own risk. We have nothing to do with them when it comes to paying claimants because the government will be paying the people directly soon,” Mr Oluka said.
He said government had finished the payment draft report after a verification exercise.

Last year, while campaigning in Gulu, President Museveni promised to pay war debt claimants directly through their accounts in order to avoid claimants being fleeced of their money.

The background
In 2006, more than 20,000 Acholi war debt claimants sued government demanding compensation for lost animals and property during the armed insurgencies in the northern region. In 2007, the government settled the case out of court and pledged Shs12.1 billion for compensation to the claimants. Only Shs5 billon had been paid to the claimants by May 2013.


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