By Our Reporter
Amuru: President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni has ordered the Balaalo with non-fenced farmland in the Greater North to leave the region within three weeks.
The Greater North Sub Regions that are being occupied by the Balaalo include Lango, Acholi, and West Nile.
“Those who have cows in non-fenced areas must go immediately because this is recklessness. Why should you bring cows into an area where you have no control? Therefore, I direct the Division Commander, the Regional Police Commander, and then the Minister of Northern Uganda to issue orders for these people to move their cows. Anybody who has cows in a non-fenced area must go. All of them,” he said.
President Museveni issued the order on Friday while meeting residents of Okidi, Atiak sub-county in Amuru district. His visit is aimed at addressing the growing crisis of the settlement of Balaalo in the region.
Museveni also ordered the Balaalo, who are occupying government land like Lakang and Aswa ranches, to vacate it.
“They must leave. I give them three weeks to hire trucks and take their cows wherever they take them. I would have confiscated the cows themselves, but let them take their cows, sell them, and do whatever they want to do,” he said.
He disclosed that when he passed an executive order banning the Balaalo from Acholi, he started to hear different voices from people, and as NRM, they always try to hear everybody to know their side and solve the issue harmoniously.
“I therefore started with a group led by the Chief Justice, Owiny-Dollo, and we had a long meeting in Entebbe, and I was taking notes. Then some of those they call Balaalo came. They came with landowners who either sold to them or rented land to them; they gave their version. I said no problem; I will come to one of the areas myself and hear directly from the people.”
The president also revealed that the disagreement between the Balaalo and the people of the Greater North mainly stems from the issue of crop destruction and ownership of land in the area.
“To have people destroying people’s crops is totally not acceptable, and therefore, I just want to cross-check briefly, but it’s clear that if you have cattle in an area that is not fenced, then obviously, they are liable to cause damage to people’s crops,” President Museveni explained.
“Now that does not deal with the issue of ownership. Whether you bought or rented, we shall handle that later because, here, we are not handling the issue of ownership or renting contracts because, whether you bought or rented, you have no right to destroy my crops, and that is why I have already asked the Minister of Justice and the Attorney General to draft a law criminalizing this type of nomadism. They must all go, and I give them three weeks to leave. They should not invade other areas of Uganda; they should sell the cows, get money, and do other things.”
The President also promised that he was going to have a final meeting with the two opinions: those who are for the immediate eviction of the Balaalo and those who are saying that things should go slowly.
“I will have another meeting in Entebbe, and we will conclude,” he assured.
“Now if there are people who have fenced their land where they are renting and fenced properly, those ones can wait until we discuss in more detail. We shall discuss how to handle the issue of ownership and renting. That’s the second issue, because you hear these people say this land is ours. The cultural leader is saying that it is for the clan.”
The President further requested that the people of Acholi be careful while dealing with the Balaalo issue because it is sensitive and can cause problems.
Earlier on, the people of Acholi had reported to the President how some Balaalo illegally took over their land and how they mistreated them.
Kilak North Member of Parliament, Hon. Anthony Akol, told the President that Executive Order No. 3, which he passed, clearly addresses the issues affecting the people of Acholi as far as the Balaalo are concerned.
“You said very clearly that land in the Acholi subregion or Northern Uganda is not owned by individuals, and therefore, people have been intimidated here that they are going to refund money to those who bought land here, yet those who sold don’t have it. People came from IDP camps without resources; they were manipulated, and their land was bought cheaply, and now they don’t have that money, and the people we call Balaalo have now raised the money that they give to some people to tell you that we love the Balaalo; they should not go anywhere,” Hon. Akol noted.
“When we came here last Wednesday, we had like eight people whose gardens had been destroyed by animals. That was Wednesday only, but on a daily basis, people’s crops are being destroyed,” the legislator added.
The Amuru District LC5 Chairperson, Mr. Michael Lakony, said the matter is no joke and should be dealt with with the utmost attention it deserves.
“Your Excellency, you have come to Amuru to restore order, and this order is not questionable. We have a local community within Okidi that cannot farm because cattle are masquerading and eating their crops,” Mr. Lakony said.
He said the area is one of those that was highly affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), and it’s now in the course of development.
“We cannot be welcomed by masquerading cows that are destroying our only wealth.”
The event was also attended by the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Hon. Norbert Mao, the Minister of State for Northern Uganda, Hon. Grace Freedom Kwiyucwiny, Members of Parliament, and cultural leaders, among others.
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