URN.More than 51,000 acres of land in the villages of Kaladima, Pacilo Palokere, and parts of Pawel in the greater Atiak Sub-county are currently being occupied by pastoralists commonly referred to as Balaalo.
Less than half of pastoralists settled in Atiak Sub-county in Amuru District have voluntarily complied with the presidential directives on fencing grazing lands.
Last month, President Museveni issued a fresh eviction notice for pastoralists camped in Northern Uganda to vacate the region within two months unless they meet conditions of legal acquisition of land, erecting a fence, and water sources.
However, with the eviction deadline approaching on January 3, 2022, a local verification committee in Amuru district reveals that only 32 out of the total 96 Pastoralists settled in the greater Atiak Sub-county had fenced their lands.
More than 51,000 acres of land in Kaladima village in Bibia Parish, Palulu village in Okidi South Parish and Okidi North Parish, Lulai village in Palukere parish, and Gunya village in Pacilo Parish in the greater Atiak Sub-county are currently being occupied by pastoralists commonly referred to as Balaalo.
Kenneth Okot, the Atiak Town Council Chairperson and Head of the greater Atiak verification committee say that many pastoralists in the area are hesitant to fence their land.
He says only 32 of the total numbers of pastoralists in the area had by the start of this week voluntarily handed over their documents containing land purchase agreements, national identification, and numbers of animals being kept to the verification committee.
Okot also noted that in their onsite assessment conducted on Tuesday, only one pastoralist was found to have dug water dams on his land with the majority still depending on rivers and streams.
He says the use of community streams and rivers has brewed conflicts between the pastoralists and locals since animals stray into people’s gardens, leaving trails of destruction.
The Amuru Resident District Commissioner, Geoffrey Osborn Oceng acknowledges that reports on the ground indicate a few of the pastoralists in the district had complied with the presidential directives.
Oceng says that a meeting is expected to be held on January 3 next month in Gulu City with the three select committees established by President Museveni will decide on the fate of the non-compliant pastoralists.
The committee members comprise the State Minister for Agriculture in charge of Animal Husbandry, Col Bright Rwamirama, State Minister for Internal Affairs, Gen David Muhoozi, and State Minister for Foreign Affairs Henry Okello Oryem.
Oceng notes that the District will also kick off its internal verification of the pastoralists by Wednesday (December 29) to ensure that the documents of those who voluntarily heeded the directives are genuine.
He says it is possible that some of the pastoralists may connive with local leaders to provide compromised information regarding sales agreement, size of land, and numbers of cattle being herd.
Oceng says the presence of the cattle keepers in the district has seen an escalation of land-related conflicts among family members and neighbors adding that cases of crop destruction by animals went a notch higher than usual.
For instance, he alleges that the district has this year alone registered 102 cases of crop destruction and 152 land conflict-related cases arising from cattle keeping by pastoralists.
Joyce Keren Atim, the LCV Women Councilor for Atiak Sub County alleges that the presence of the pastoralists in the community has facilitated breakups in marriages of couples and increased cases of teenage pregnancy.
She says many women and teenage girls in the community prefer the Pastoralist to their husbands with belief that they have money.
Atim adds that Got Olima, one of the treasured cultural sites, and Kal Amuka, a communal hunting ground in the Atiak Sub-county measuring about 300 acres have been illegally acquired by some of the cattle keepers.
The latest presidential directives follow back-to-back attempts employed by both the government, district, and cultural leaders in the region in curbing the entrance and presence of pastoralists but without success.
Both locals and leaders in the districts of Amuru, Nwoya, Kitgum, Lamwo, and Pader severally raised concerns on alleged rising land conflicts, moral decay, and destruction of cultural sites in areas where some of the pastoralists settled.