ACHOLI – President Yoweri Museveni has proposed 5-year imprisonment and confiscation and auction of cattle belonging to errant Balaalo cattle keepers. This follows a recent pressure by leaders including Members of Parliament, Ker Kwaro Acholi and the Acholi Cultural Institution.
Early this month, in meetings held at Ker Kwaro Acholi Headquarters in Gulu City, Anthony Akol, the Chairperson Acholi Parliamentary Group (APG), and Ambrose Olaa, the Prime Minister Ker Kwaro Acholi gave a 14-day-ultimatum to the Balaalo to leave Acholi sub-region.
The decision follows a public outcry on the Balaalo of their activities which is manifested through land grabbing, forest destruction, sexual abuse among others in the Acholi sub-region.
In a letter dated 2nd November this year, Museveni wants amendments made to the law so that indiscipline, inconsiderate cattle keepers are imprisoned.
“Furthermore, the necessary laws should be amended to provide for imprisonment (possibly 5 years) and the confiscation and auctioning of the cattle involved in this endemic indiscipline,” Museveni`s letter read in part.
Museveni ordered four years ago that all the Balaalo who were in the country illegally be evicted. He said that even if they (Balaalo) lease or buy land, the question is: “is that land fenced and does it have water within in?” if the answer is “no”, then the next question is: “How will this migrant stop his cattle from trampling on the crops of others?” said the President.
In his latest directive in a letter, the President gave a two months ultimatum for the indisciplined and inconsiderate Balaalo to be evicted from the country subsequently forming a three-man committee comprising of David Muhoozi, Bwogo Engola, and Bright Rwamirama to implement his latest directive. He says the Resident District Commissioners (RDCs), Gombolola Internal Security Officer (GISOs) and all Veterinary staffs are to be held accountable.
According to Museveni, the Balaalo are either non-Ugandans coming from neighboring countries or indisciplined Ugandans that sold their land and are now disturbing other Ugandans and should not be tolerated.
“The central issue is permission to move cattle. Cattle should not be moved unless the Local Government Authorities (Parish Chiefs) and the Veterinary Officers where the cattle are going to and where they are coming from say it is okay to move the cattle. The Balaalo only do what they are doing in three ways. One way is to invade the area without owning any land there and impose their cattle on other people`s land or of the land of the government. The second way is to buy land from the locals and the third way is to lease land from the locals. In all the three ways, their movement is illegal,” Museveni`s letter read in part.
Anthony Akol, the Chairperson of Acholi Parliamentary Group hopes this time the implementation of this directive is done because on numerous occasions, directives are given and are not followed.
Denis Onekalit Amere, the Kitgum Municipality MP says, much as the President is giving directives, there`s a need to investigate how the Balaalo get access to the movement permits especially from the Ministry of Agriculture before seeking further permission from the veterinary and local officials.
According to Amere, the whole Balaalo thing might be a planned move to grab land and displace the indigenous landowners especially for the Acholi sub-region which is still recovering from the effects of the over 2-decade war.
Lucy Akello, the Amuru district woman Member of Parliament wants a specific effort targeting sensitization of the communities on land ownership since it’s mostly them who are selling away land due to ignorance in the pretext of the need for money.
According to Akello, Ker Kwaro Acholi, and the district local governments should come up with ordinances and by-laws which bar individuals from selling family or communal land to investors or cattle keepers.
“The biggest problem is that we have people who are illiterate and poor. And so, the brokers and elite people take advantage of them. So, we need the districts and Ker Kwaro Acholi to come up with sensitization programs, by-laws, and ordinances so that such rampant sale of land in the sub-region is halted” Akello notes.
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