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Confusion as Balaalo herdsmen invade Madhvani Sugar project’s land in Amuru

Amuru Resident District Commissioner, Agnes Linda pledged support to evict the Balaalo herdsmen from the district. (PHOTO/Okema)

AMURU – District Authorities of Amuru are in mix perception over the rightful successors of the land the government is compensating its owners for sugar project in partnership with Madhvani group of companies following an invasion of Balaalo herdsmen with thousands head of cattle.

Micheal Lakony, Amuru district chairman in an interview earlier this week, says they are surprised that Balaalo herdsmen are sneaking and settling on the land meant for Sugar project in Amuru district, something raising a lot of question among members of the community on who shall take over the compensated area.

“We don’t know whether the state has got hands to the Balaalo but we are investigating area. Already there are over 2000 heads of cattle in areas like Tee Okutu, Bombayi, Orego within Lakang and Kololo” Mr. Lakony wonders.

Government together with Madhvani groups of companies has acquired land in Amuru district measuring 10,000 hectares for sugar project. Currently, the government has injected billions of shillings to compensate the owners and recently the government has released the second batch of payment to the landowners.

He noted that the herdsmen tie the animals’ hones with robes and pull them through motorboats across River Nile from Pakwach and some enters through Adjumani.

Mr. Lakony says the over 2000 heads of cattle herded by Balaalo has been roaming the areas for the last two months and as district security committee they have held meeting on how to have the cattle keeper evicted to leave the land for forthcoming sugar project.

Besides, the district boss reported that these cattle are also a menace to crops as they eat up plants belonging to landowners awaiting compensation.

“We told who are waiting for their land compensation to cultivate short term crops until the government fully compensated them but these Balaalo animals are destroying their crops because they are marching their cattle on their fields” Lakony noted.

Cattle belonging to the Balaalo drink water at Ayugi Bridge in Amuru District recently. FILE PHOTO

Amuru Resident District Commissioner, Agnes Linda Auma also concurred. She pointed that a UPDF officer only to be identified as Captain Labeja who purportedly owns a farm in Amuru near the earmarked land for sugar production is the one behind the invasion of the area by the Balaalo herdsmen.

She said as the head of the district security she is liaising with Commander of 4th Division Barrack Brig. Bonny Bwamiseki to support them evict the Balaalo herdsmen from Amuru. She noted that some of the cattle keepers are suspected to have guns and it makes it risky to visit them after the community had reportedly said they are violent.

“The community reported to me about the presence of Balaalo on land for sugar project in Amuru but their numbers is too much that I can’t chased them away singlehandedly but we asked 4th Division army Commander to give us soldiers so that they are evicted once and for all” Ms Auma said. “But we have challenge, personally as RDC I don’t have a vehicle and I always hire taxi but the affected areas is very far above 130Km” she added.

In a related situation resident of Palaro in the areas of Corner Ade and place towards Atiak ha also expressed concerns to local leaders over another arrival of huge numbers of animals herded by Balaalo in their community.

However, Maj. Caeser Otim Olweny, the UPDF spokesman for 4th Infantry Division in Gulu argued that most Balaalo herdsmen returning are being welcomed by the community and their leaders but the community should always make formal complaints to their leader so that armies can act.

“It is very unfortunate that our people complaint but they don’t mean their complaints yet these cattle keepers comes in the conscience of some members of the community including some of the local leaders which make it very difficult until we as armies are informed formally that Balaalo arrives in a location because we work on order” Maj Olweny told journalist on Wednesday.

Maj. Caeser Otim Olweny, the UPDF spokesman for 4th Infantry Division in Gulu. (PHOTO/Okema)

Balaalo cattle keepers are nomadic pastoralists with unclear origin but mostly referred to hail from Rwanda.

In 2017, President Museveni, through Minister of Agriculture Fisheries and Animal Husbandries, Vincent Ssempijja ordered them to quit northern Uganda particularly Acholi sub-region and Adjumani district and ensured the nomadic practice abolished or transformed to the modern method of animal production in Uganda. The directive comes into effect by Uganda people defense’ forces headed by Chief of Defense Force, Gen David Muhoozi.

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