Kitgum, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Security officials in Kitgum district have issued a warning to residents and political leaders against attacking nomadic pastoralists.
The warning follows a statement made by the Chua West Member of Parliament Philip Polly Okin Ojara, over the weekend inciting locals to “treat Balalo cattle as wild animals and should hunt and slaughter them for meat”.
Okin was speaking during a radio talk show in one of the radio stations in Kitgum municipality following the entry of two pastoralists in Pinymunu village, Pajimo Parish, Labongo Akwang sub-county.
The pastoralists entered the area on September 12 with 35 heads of long-horned Ankole cattle from Ngora district but were intercepted by the sub-county leaders and instead told to vacate the area by Friday last week.
Kitgum Resident District Commissioner William Komakech says whereas the herdsmen illegally entered the area, it was wrong for leaders to incite the community members to attack their cattle.
Komakech warned the community members not to heed to such statements of violence which destabilizes relations. He says that those who take the law into their hands will be arrested and prosecuted.
He noted that his office has met the herdsmen, sub-county leaders, and the community members and agreed on a one-week ultimatum for the pastoralists to vacate voluntarily.
The Fifth Infantry Division Commander Brig William Bainomugisha condemned the MP’s statement saying leaders ought to ensure safe ways of dialogue instead of inciting the community into violence.
Brig Bainomugisha says his office is going to investigate the matter and find an amicable solution.
But Okin defended his statement in a telephone interview with Uganda Radio Network on Monday saying he stands by it. He says that he will go ahead and mobilize his community against the herdsmen if they don’t leave voluntarily.
Okin claims the pastoralists used a wrong approach to bring their animals in the area without ensuring the land they will be using is fenced thereby contravening an earlier directive by President Museveni. In late 2017, President Museveni ordered the eviction of balalo pastoralists from Northern Uganda following persistent land conflict complaints from residents and local leaders.
In 2018, the Uganda People’s Defence Forces spearheaded the eviction of hundreds of Balalo pastoralists with more than 10,000 heads of cattle from different corners of the Acholi sub-region and Adjumani in the West Nile region.