Former MP Odonga Otto Released On Police Bond, Charged With Two Counts

Posted on May 10, 2023
By LTAuthor


Former Aruu County MP and now environmental activist, Hon Samuel Odonga Otto was released on police bond.

Otto who surrendered himself to Aswa River Region police headquarters in Gulu city on Monday 9th May, and after spending hours behind bars has been charged with aggravated robbery and theft of charcoal.
Otto and a group of vigilantes are accused of severely injuring three charcoal businessmen, looting money, and vandalizing their vehicle in Atanga sub-county, Pader district, northern Uganda.
His lawyer Tony Kitara was however able to secure him on a bond later on ground.
Otto told journalists after his release that he smells local politics at play against him since all the charges are emanating from Pader district despite carrying out his campaigns in other areas of the Acholi sub-region.
“The charges as you have seen one of them is theft, I stole 380 bags of charcoal in Angagura. I was there with the chairman LC V who called police himself. But when it comes to charging, you take out Odonga Otto and leave out the LC V. Secondly, all the cases are coming from Pader, I have to Amuru, I have been to Gulu, everywhere but the cases are coming from Pader which means there is an aspect of local politics of getting in mainstream charcoal. Interestingly, without prejudicing what my lawyers have said this day which they claim I robbed Shs 1 million is the very day I was in Kampala,” said Otto.
Otto said as environmentalists, his team plan to engage the government on how they can work together and champion the ban against illegal commercial charcoal production and trade. He urged vigilantes in the region to avoid taking the law into their hands by beating or torturing suspected illegal charcoal dealers.
“We want to meet government and agree on how to work together because there is no going back. If we agree with government we’re going to have a high-profile meeting. It might even be stationed at Kololo for two months, and RPP (Ribbe Pi Paco, an environmental youth advocacy and activism group) will be there helping police day and night or at Karuma bridge. We shall be there with our tents so make no mistake thinking that bringing Odonga Otto in police is enough to intimidate him, no. And I invite all Acholis and everyone, please if you go out, the environmentalists in Lamwo, the environmentalists in Amuru, don’t beat people, don’t torture people because now some group of individuals went and tortured some people in some which I don’t know but every blame is coming to RPP Odonga Otto. Please don’t put the law in your hands,” said Otto.
Otto and his team also plan to petition the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to charge the three complainants who have openly admitted to being commercial charcoal businessmen, which is in contravention of Section 157 of the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) Act.
Damali Nachuha, Aswa River Region police commander, expects Otto to follow the law now that he has been given a police bond and is expected to report back to police on May 17.
Otto launched a controversial campaign against illegal commercial charcoal businesses in the region in February this year. This was after the Environment ministry banned all districts in Acholi sub-region from issuing documents facilitating the commercial production, trade, and transportation of charcoal.
The growing commercial charcoal business in the region over the years has resulted in a drastic decline of the natural tree covers, with environmentalists worrying that the trend could leave the region bare in the future.
According to the Global Forest Watch report, Gulu district alone lost 38.7kha of tree cover, equivalent to a 6.2 per cent decrease in tree cover from 2001 to 2021, with the biggest portion of the forest covers destroyed for charcoal production and timber.

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