Clan leaders in Lamwo District have rejected any planned verification of pastoralists in the district, saying all the land they are using is communally owned and was leased fraudulently.
The matter was raised on Thursday during a meeting with Brig. Gen. Philip Mugarura from the Internal Affairs Ministry, who had gone to meet the locals and the pastoralists about the verification of cattle keepers at Palabek Town Council. The verification has been scheduled for Tuesday, February 15th.
The planned verification is in line with the guidelines for evicting pastoralists which tasks the security committee to only leave pastoralists who have fenced their grazing land and have water sources on them.
However, the clan leaders say the land verification only applies to those who bought or leased individual land.
The clan leaders maintain that the land being occupied by the pastoralists was fraudulently given by a group of 17 children, who did not consult the elders. They, therefore, say the land transaction is invalid because the land is communally owned and cannot be sold.
Denis Akaka, the Prime Minister of Palabek Cultural Institution, said the 17 young men who leased land for the pastoralists have apologized for their actions.
Akaka says the cultural institution has levied a fine of two cows or one million shillings per cow on each of the locals who leased land so that the clan leaders now take up the costs of following the land matter.
Akaka says the pastoralists also don’t peacefully co-exist with the locals and often threaten violence and are arrogant and some are fencing off water sources that were being used by the community.
Ambrose Olaa, the Prime Minister of Acholi Cultural Institution, says communal land is used by the community that owns it and cannot, therefore, be sold, leased, or fenced.
Olaa says their interest to evict the balaalo is not out of segregation or tribalism, but the indiscipline and arrogance exhibited by the pastoralists.
Brig. Mugarura, however, says the cultural institution should set out clear terms and conditions upon which foreign users of the land should operate. He also appealed to the pastoralists to form an association to discipline errant members who have gained notoriety for arrogance.
The RDC of Lamwo district, James Nabinson Kidega says the balaalo are in the sub-counties of Palabek Gem, Abera, Ogili, and Padwat. Kidega says they are going to attend the last meeting on the issue of the balaalo today on Gulu, before they implement the orders of the President.
Kidega says initially there were 19 kraals and more than 3,000 animals belonging to the pastoralists in the district but says many have voluntarily left and only 1,400 animals are left in seven kraals.
Kidega however says his intelligence reports indicate that some locals are keeping animals of the balaalo who have left claiming that they bought them.
He says they will verify the authenticity of those claims and gauge if these local cattle keepers have the capacity to buy as many as fifty cattle at once, yet they initially didn’t have even one.
He says those found hiding the animals for the balaalo will be chased from the area.
Kidega says they will follow the guidelines given by the president and only spare pastoralists who had fenced their land with water sources by the time the president gave the eviction order.
It is however not clear how many acres of land the pastoralists are occupying in the district.