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UPDF General faces arrest over land scandal

Maj Gen Charles Otema Awany, the commander of the reserve forces, has been issued with a warrant of arrest after snubbing Land Probe Commission chaired by Jusice Catherine Bamugemereire

LAND | The Land Probe Commission has issued a warrant of arrest for the commander of the Reserve Forces, Maj Gen Charles Otema Awany, for failure to honour summonses.

The commission, chaired by Lady Justice Catherine Bamugemereire, says the warrant was issued in response to Gen Otema’s continued snub of a probe into various allegations in relation to illegal and forceful eviction of people in Acholi sub-region.

Bamugemereire said Otema failed to honour follow-up summonses by the commission or return calls from the its investigators despite previous instructions that he would have to reappear as a probe team widened investigations into his activities on a chunk of land in Nwoya District.

“Our investigators have tried their level best to trace Gen. Otema and have failed. They have tried to reach him through telephone calls but he neither picks nor return calls,” the Land probe lead counsel Andrew Odit said.

Justice Bamugemereire said that when Gen Otema appeared before the commission on August 17, he gave a half defense and was put on notice that the Commission would require his return on August 31 to respond to more queries.

However, he has remained out of contact and the commission says its activities are being affected by the absence.

“This Commission is left with no choice but to issue a warrant of arrest against Gen. Otema to appear before this commission on Monday, September 3,” Justice Bamugemereire said.

Gen Otema is facing various allegations against him before the Commission which he has to answer to. Among the allegations is the beating and burning of people like former Paidha Town Clerk Jathim Pierino, destroying Obira Primary School, a public school that was the only UPE school in the parish constructed by the Danish Refugee Council for the Jonam Community and threatening the media which exposed these atrocities he committed in Obira parish – Nwoya district.

The military general is accused of deploying armed men to execute unlawful evictions where he later allegedly grabbed hectares of land. He is accused of encroaching on Jonam land that covers several villages in Purongo and Got Apwoyo sub-counties.

Gen Otema is jointly accused with several others, including Capt Martin Labeja, Nwoya District water engineer Okumu Anywar and Iraq-based Fred Oola.

Otema is also said to have burnt down homes of 800 families at Obira Trading Centre, demolished Kazanako Church of Uganda, Kazanako Parents’ School, Blue Corner Trading Center, Obira Church of Uganda, Obira Catholic Parish, polling stations like Obira West and Kazanako polling stations which had about 1800 voters each.

But during his appearance before the land probe commission a fortnight ago, Gen Otema denied ever evicting people from any of his land.

The land from which Gen. Otema allegedly evicted people covers the villages of Obira West, Obira Upper, Obira Lower, Obira South, Garamba, Kololo, Katinya and Ojwang, he claimed that the whole Kazanako sub-county was his.

The land stretches from the main Gulu-Nwoya Highway to River Aswa part near Murchison Falls National Park Land. Otema also admitted that he owns 20,000 hectares of land in Amuru district from which he evicted people.

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