Pubdate: Wed, 07 Jan 2009
Source: Monitor, The (Uganda)
Copyright: 2009 The Monitor.
Authors: Sam Lawino, and Paul Amoru
Bookmark: (Cannabis)


The growing of the weed is threatening to break down  the relative 
peace among the communities of the  returning internally displaced 
people in northern  Uganda. Sam Lawino and Paul Amoru write about the 
lucrative trade that is fuelling the growing of  marijuana

People in the Acholi sub-region are cutting their New  Year 
celebrations short, to worry about the news of a  rising marijuana 
business in the region.

The news of many people, most of whom are former  displaced persons, 
getting involved in the growing  smoking of the deadly weed only 
serve to add salt in  the wound as the population is already worried 
about the direction the Juba Peace process has taken.

Daily Monitor has established that marijuana smokers  are becoming a 
headache to former Internally Displaced  Persons who had returned to 
resettle at their ancestral  homes following a lull of peace in the region.

The development is already threatening the life and  safety of former 
IDPs and is blamed on the rising  demand of the weed by business 
people in Gulu town and  other towns across the region.

Last Saturday, angry communities of Bulku, (Omel Apem)  in Paicho 
sub- County, which is approximately 24  kilometres west of Gulu town, 
nabbed a marijuana smoker  while he took a nap and handed him to 
police. But the  suspect allegedly escaped from police and is said to 
be  in hiding.

The man identified as Esau Ojara was arrested after he  destroyed his 
father's house and drove his family  members out of their home with a 
matchete, the local LC  I chairman of Omel A sub-ward, Mr Christopher 
Ongom  said.

"Our people are losing their patience having complained  to the 
authorities several times about these men who  are disturbing the 
peace and security of the community,  especially of their women and 
children," Mr Ongom said.

He alleged that Ojara had sold two basins of marijuana  to some Gulu 
town buyers but did not identify the  people involved.

According to the LCI chairman, Ojara's colleague  identified as Mr 
Otto Tobi Lalugulugu has harvested a  granary full of marijuana for 
sale illegally.

"The men returned in 2007 from Tegot Atoo Hill and  Cwero internally 
displaced people's camps back to their  village ahead of the rest of 
the communities and began  growing the narcotic drug," Ongom explained.

Bulku is a remote village formerly infested with the  rebels of the 
Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in the late  1996 to 2004.

One Agnes Alican, a resident of Bulku in Omel Apem  village said that 
people around the village had  developed fears and could not carry on 
with their  normal daily activities in their gardens and homes 
fearing attacks by the ganja men.

"We are living in fear because these men will not spare  you after 
they smoke the jai (marijuana) and they are  very dangerous," Ms Alican said.

Marijuana is a narcotic drug and if taken for days can  cause mental 
illness or madness according to health  experts.

Gulu Referral Hospital acting coordinator of Trans  cultural 
psychosocial organisation John Van Okwir said  that psychosis, a 
state of mental illness can be as a  result of drug abuse.

He said that taking substances like alcohol and  marijuana were the 
factors leading to increased mental  sickness alongside neurological 
disorder in the Acholi  sub-region.

Mr Okwir explained that neurological disorder which  relates to 
epileptic condition, depression, and mania  and post traumatic 
conditions has registered 70 per  cent of mental sickness in the 
hospital records.

"Patients with psychosis and neurosis are those related  to taking 
drugs, marijuana and alcohols abuses and  these are very rampant 
amongst the youth," he added.

Sergeant Ocaya Will, a police detective familiar with  the problem 
could not be reached for comment but a well  placed police source 
said that about 40 narcotic cases  were recorded in Gulu alone last year.

"We are still compiling the figure but it's less than  40 in number 
for the year 2008. Some of those arrested  have since been 
prosecuted," the source said.

He said the business was booming across neighbouring  Kenya as 
dealers move with it in their jackets and sell  it to the Kenyan 
markets at lucrative prices.

The source revealed that a handful of marijuana fetches  between 
Shs3,000 and Shs15,000 in illegal markets  around Gulu town.

Police spokesman for Northern Uganda Johnson Kilama  identified 
places such as Lagoon in Laroo Division and  Aywe- Layibi in Pece 
Division Gulu Municipality as the  common places where marijuana smokers hide.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom