Local leaders in Amuru District have lauded the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) for the forceful eviction of herdsmen commonly known as Balaalo who had pitched camp in a sugarcane plantation owned by Madhvani Group of Companies and government.
The Balaalo have for long been grazing their animals in the villages of Tee-okutu, Bombayi, Ndiir, and Orego in Kololo Parish, Lakanga Sub-county with an estimated 10,000 animals.
In 2017, a total of 205 households surrendered 10,000 hectares of land to Madhvani Group of Companies and government for Sugarcane growing and factory establishment.
Each hectare was compensated at a fee of Shs800,000. But before the land could be put to use, the Balaalo invaded the area in April last year.
The locals accuse them of leaving their animals to stray and destroy people’s houses.
Ms Cecelia Arach, the chairperson of the area land committee and a resident of Tee-okutu village, told Daily Monitor that the animals were a menace to the communities.
“Their eviction means a lot to us. Our plantation are now safe,’’ she said.
The chairperson of Amuru, Mr Michael Lakony, said: “We are glad that the eviction is now underway. The Balaalo had also posed security threat to our communities. There are allegations that they graze their animals while armed with machetes.’’
“One wonders how they keep getting back to Amuru. Three years ago, they were evicted, but they got their way back,’’ he said.
UPDF 4th Division spokesperson Maj Telesphor Turyamumanya said the eviction is going on well without any major resistance.
“Before the eviction started this month, we first engaged them in several meeting and they knew the time frame given to them to move the animals. Those who were still on the ground are being evicted,’’ he said.
Mr Amuru Federiko Tubangane, one of the Balaalo cattle keepers, said: “We only focus in grazing our animals that are a source of our livelihood. There is water and grass in this area (Amuru),’’ he said.
Other Sub-counties where the Balaalo have camped are Atiak and Pabbo all in Amuru District.
In 2017, President Museveni ordered the eviction of the Balaalo from the area. Their eviction followed complaints from locals who accused them of being a security threat.
In 2018, the eviction saw thousands of animals being loaded on trucks out of the region. In November last year, locals petitioned the Resident District Commissioner over the destruction of their farmlands by Balaalo animals. I – Daily Monitor