The President of the Democratic Party, Norbert Mao has criticized President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni`s move on evicting the balalo herdsmen from Northern Uganda, terming it as only treating the symptoms.
Last year Museveni ordered the eviction of the balalo herdsmen who are non-natives of the Acholi Sub Region from Northern Uganda on allegations of causing insecurity, destruction of farmlands and crops, perpetrating land conflicts, and causing domestic violence among others.
Museveni ordered that the balalo herdsmen to fence off their lands, stop encroachment on lands, sign lease agreements or buy lands so that they continue staying or face forceful eviction. The President said some of the balalo herdsmen are from the neighboring Rwanda and Congo as well as from the Eastern and Central parts of Uganda.
However, Mao who promised to write to the President about the matter says that these are not solutions to the Acholi problems because the Acholi people are hungry, poor and looking after land as their means of survival.
He explains that the balalo herdsmen, based on the President`s order will instead take advantage of the desperate Acholi people and buy off their lands leaving the natives dispossessed.
The Democratic Party (DP) President told Uganda Radio Network – URN from Gulu City that the President is only looking at the balalo herdsmen and not looking at the matter from the side of the Acholi people.
He added that Acholi people have lost their cattle to the insurgencies, have no capacity to tilt their land, and opted to sell off their lands due to their vulnerabilities.
He noted that the best approach to solving the problems of the balalo herdsmen in the Acholi Sub-region is by addressing the vulnerability and poverty among the people by economically empowering them in order to become self-reliant to utilize their lands.
Mao`s concerns come at a time when a select committee put in place by President Museveni is in Northern Uganda conducting an operation to audit and evict all balalo herdsmen illegally occupying government and community lands or those whose lands have not been fenced and fraudulently acquired their lands.
The operation code-named ”Lainisha Kilimo Na Mifugo” and headed by State Minister for Internal Affairs, Gen. David Muhoozi was launched last week, and will last one month.
Ambrose Olaa, the Prime Minister of the Acholi Cultural Institution (Ker Kwaro Acholi) also maintained that the Acholi people are not authorized to sell land to the balalo herdsmen because they are communally owned and do not belong to individuals.
However, Resident District Commissioners like Stephen Odong Latek of Gulu, James Nabinson Kidega of Lamwo, Geoffrey Osborn Oceng of Amuru and Kitgum districts who are manning the operations in their areas maintain that they are committed to completely wiping out the balalo herdsmen from the Acholi land as directed by President Museveni.