At least 40 grass thatched houses have been burnt down in Nunu village by arsonists they claim are from Mbaraka village in Ayivuni sub county Arua district.
Nunu residents claim Mbaraka villagers were able to carry out the arson under the protection of Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF).
Nunu and Mbaraka villages are located next to UPDF detach in Odramacaku where Uganda borders Democratic Republic of Congo.
According to residents the incident that happened on Thursday. The attack was reportedly in response to an attempt by a group of five residents from Nunu village to open land for cultivation at the border with Mbaraka village.
This came after Arua Chief Magistrate’s Court ruled that residents of Nunu were free to go ahead with cultivation since the land in question belonged to Nunu residents not residents of Mbaraka they claimed.
John Nyakuni, one of the residents who was part of the cultivation group, says they had started tilling the land when a group of more than 20 residents from Mbaraka came and started opening the same land. They were guarded by UPDF soldiers who ordered the Nunu villagers to leave.
Nyakuni says that when they tried to resist, more villagers came from Mbaraka and invaded their village. He estimates they were about 80 villagers who burned the huts. He claims UPDF soldiers watched the arson take place but did not intervene.
But Tom Bayo, a resident from Mbaraka, says though court had ruled in favour of Nunu residents, they have already appealed the ruling. He argues that Nunu villagers had no right to begin opening the land before the court matter was settled once and for all.
Bayo blames the police for inaction because they had been informed of the impending clashes but done nothing.
However Lt. Mark Mutono, UPDF spokesperson for West Nile, when contacted denied that any soldiers were involved in the land wrangles.
He did say that investigations would be carried out to show the community that UPDF was not part of the dispute.
But Josephine Angucia, the police spokesperson for West Nile, refutes the claim that police did not try to prevent the arson. She says they are actually investigating the matter.
According to reports those whose houses have been burnt are now living with their relatives and well-wishers.
This is not the first time houses together with household items have been burnt down because of a land dispute in Arua district. Two months ago more than 63 households were left homeless after 25 grass thatched houses were also burnt under similar circumstances.