Balalo Herdsmen Verification Exercise Extended by Two Weeks

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

The verification process of Balalo herdsmen, responsible for herding cattle in the Acholi sub-region, has been prolonged by an additional two weeks, commencing from Monday. This extension follows the conclusion of the initial assessment that took place last week on Friday.

Overseeing this operation is the team under the name “Operation Harmony,” led by Prof. Nyeko Jack Pen-Mogi and deputized by MP Anthony Akol. Their responsibilities encompass confirming the accurate count of herdsmen, pinpointing their geographical locations, and acquiring specific details regarding the lands they currently occupy.

This development occurs nearly a month subsequent to President Museveni’s decision to extend the implementation of an executive order aimed at the eviction of these nomadic pastoralists.

According to MP Anthony Akol, the verification exercise concerning the herdsmen has now been lengthened by a period of two weeks. The conclusive report resulting from this exercise will subsequently be presented to the Cabinet, thereby instigating any requisite actions.

In line with recent verification reports, an estimated 2,000 cattle keepers—primarily hailing from Western Uganda—are presently utilizing significant portions of land within the districts of Gulu, Amuru, and Nwoya for cattle fattening purposes.

Unofficial figures further suggest that the region currently accommodates approximately 40,000 herds of cattle being fattened across multiple farms owned by these cattle keepers.

Concurrently, the ongoing verification initiative concerning the Balaalo herdsmen within the Acholi sub-region has sparked division amongst the Acholi legislators, operating under the umbrella of the Acholi Parliamentary Group (APG). A faction within this group opposes the continuation of this exercise.

This discord emerges a month after President Museveni postponed the execution of Executive Order No 3, initially issued on May 19, 2023, which called for the eviction of these cattle keepers until September 30, pending their comprehensive verification.

However, merely one week into the verification process, a segment of legislators from the Acholi sub-region is vocalizing its dissent and advocating for an immediate and permanent cessation of this exercise.

Prominent figures within this faction include Chua West MP Philip Polly Okin Ojara, Betty Aol Ocan, the Gulu City Woman MP, Margate Lamwaka, MP for Chua East, and Gilbert Olanya MP for Kilak South.

On Monday, Okin Ojara expressed his stance in Gulu City, asserting that the verification process should not have been initiated since the President had already issued an executive order for the eviction of the herdsmen.

Okin accused fellow legislators who spearheaded the verification process of misleading the Chief Coordinator of Operation Wealth Creation (OWC), Gen. Salim Saleh, ultimately leading to the President’s temporary withdrawal of Executive Order No 3.

MP Anthony Akol addressed journalists on Monday, emphasizing that the ongoing exercise holds vital importance in establishing the accurate count of cattle keepers, their individual identities, geographic locations, and comprehensive land transaction records. This data, he argued, will facilitate the smooth execution of the eviction plan.

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