Land Battles, Balalo "Invasion" Worry Acholi Leaders

Martin Ojara Mapenduzi, the Bardege-Layibi Division MP claims that Government is deliberately frustrating cattle restocking efforts in Acholi by allowing the pastoralists to move freely with their animals despite outbreak of foot and mouth disease in the country.
08 Nov 2021 13:46
Acholi Culutral Institution. Photo by Dominic Ochola

Audio 4

A decade and half now insurgency ended in Acholi land with the defeat of Joseph Kony's Lord’s Resistance Army – LRA rebels, lasting peace is still being threatened by growing fights over land and the suspicious influx of 'balalo' with their unimmunized herds.

The post-conflict region is being antagonized by ferocious land wrangles, compounded by the disturbing advance of nomadic Balalo grazing thousands of livestock by free-range method thus destroying community gardens.

One of the deadliest flashpoints is the 827 square kilometers of Apaa land being claimed by the Uganda Wildlife Authority-UWA; Adjumani and Amuru Districts since 2012. More than 20 people have since been killed and hundreds displaced.

The two situations have prompted the local leaders; cultural and religious leaders backed by legislators from Acholi sub region to condemn Government’s slow response in addressing the situation that is affecting peace, security and development efforts of the population.

Sharon Laker Balmoi, the Gulu District Woman MP says Government must commit to ending the continued bloodshed over the ownership of contested Apaa land in order to restore harmony and mutual co-existence among the Acholi and Madi communities.

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The Agago North South County MP John Amos Okot has blamed Government for folding its hands in seeking a lasting solution to the deadly Apaa land skirmishes that has taken tribal inclination characterized by arbitrary arrests and detentions.

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On the Balalo 'invasion', Martin Ojara Mapenduzi, the Bardege-Layibi Division MP argues that Government is deliberately frustrating cattle restocking efforts in Acholi by allowing the pastoralists to move freely with their animals despite outbreak of foot and mouth disease in the country.

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Recently, Nwoya District lost dozens of cattle to foot and mouth disease which was attributed to the unregulated and night transportation of cattle from disease prone areas. The District Veterinary Department imposed a quarantine and rolled on mass vaccination of cattle.

The Ker Kwaro Acholi – KKA (Acholi Cultural Institution) also pronounced itself on the matter asserting that the protracted land disputes in the region and the coming of the Balalo pastoralists continue to undermine the development initiatives of already an impoverished region.

According to Ambrose Olaa, the Prime Minister of the KKA, the recovery process of post-war Acholi community was mismanaged, giving rise to the rampant land conflicts and unregulated movements of the Balalo pastoralists which is diminishing the livelihoods of the people.

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On 4 November 2021, the Chua West County MP Polly Philip Okin Ojara presented the issue of Balalo as a matter of national importance on the floor parliament to seek attention of the Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries - MAAIF to outlaw the movement of the Balalo pastoralists to the region.

Prior to the 2021 January general polls, President Yoweri Museveni while canvassing for votes in Acholi directed all the Balalo pastoralists seeking to graze their animals in the region to acquire land and fence it to restrain their livestock encroaching on community land. 

Other notable land disputes includes that over the Aswa Ranch measuring about 105,400 hectares which continues to rage in Pader district. It is currently occupied by a number of companies and the National Animal Genetic Resources Centre – NAGRC, Banuti and Aswa Power Project.

Led by the retired Supreme Court Judge, Galdino Okello Moro, five petitioners including the retired Bishop of Kitgum Diocese, Macleod Baker Ochola II, former Government Chief Valuer, Livingstone Okello Okello, retired Teacher Rosalba Oyaa have dragged Government to court.

The petitioners are seeking to challenge a presidential directive to lease out the land in question to the private entities and persons as free public land. At least 2,500 land owners in Angugura Sub-County have been affected by different projects in the area.

The numerous land conflicts with infiltration of Balalo pastoralists has irked leaders in the region who argue that the two factors are derailing the post-conflict region from fully and steadily recovering from the devastating impact of the two-decades long insurgency.