Confusion Mars Verification Exercise for Acholi War Debt Claimants

2657 Views Gulu, Uganda

In short
Hundreds of members of Acholi War Debt Claimants Association have been lining up under the scorching sun at the offices of Gulu Veterans Association to be verified a head of compensation for property lost during the war. But Engineer Noah Opwonya, the Chairperson of the Association says the exercise which has been ordered by the office of the Resident District Commissioner Gulu is fake and allegedly fraudulent.

The verification exercise for Acholi War Debt Claimants has been marred by confusion.

Hundreds of members of Acholi War Debt Claimants Association, including the elderly, have been lining up under the scorching sun at the offices of Gulu Veterans Association to be verified a head of compensation for property lost during the war.

But Engineer Noah Opwonya, the Chairperson of the Association says the exercise which has been ordered by the office of the Resident District Commissioner Gulu is fake and allegedly fraudulent.

Opwonya says the group that Navinson Kidega, the Gulu Resident District Commissioner, has entrusted to carry out the exercise lacks the mandate to do so. He explains that the group is carrying out the exercise without the consent of the Attorney General.

Opwonya says President Yoweri Museveni last month directed that all the claimants be verified by a committee chaired by Henry Oluka, the Principal State Attorney and deputized by him. He says the committee is comprised of five members from both the office of the Attorney General and Acholi War Debt Claimants Association. Opwonya says at the end of the exercise, the claimants will be compensated with ten billion shillings which is already with the office of the Attorney General. He says they are to begin work next month.

But the other group which has the backing of RDC Navinson Kidega is continuing with the verification exercise. Some of the elders who turned up for the exercise on Monday expressed mixed feelings.
Peter Owiny, one of the elders is bitter that they are being tossed up and down with no clear indication of when they will be paid. Owiny, who is 69, claims it’s the tenth time that they have been called to verify their claims of lost property.

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But 60-year-old Obita Ojok is however happy that the exercise might enable him recover the property that he lost to both Lord’s Resistance Army rebels and the then National Resistance Army-NRA solders in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

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RDC Kidega could not be reached for comment but Henry Oluk, the Principal State Attorney who is to lead the verification committee, declined to comment when contacted by URN.

The compensation for Acholi War Debt Claimants is shrouded in controversy. The actual amount to be compensated is still unclear. Engineer Opwonya, who claims to be the chairman of the group, says so far they have spent 2.5 billion shillings on compensation. He also says government recently released another five billion shillings to the association but that the money is still with their lawyers.

Opwonya says the five billion which has just been released will be used for compensating the claimants who were allegedly verified in 1994.

Opwonya says government will release another ten billion shillings after the verification exercise that to him starts in a month’s time.