By David Okema
Kapelebyong – There is total panic among people of Kapelebyong district in Teso sub-region after renowned cattle keepers, Balalo illegally entered the district with hundreds of cattle.
Their presence, according to leaders is making the community restless and with fears that their food and land could be misused and grabbed.
In a phone interview with this contemporary news website on Thursday 18, October, 2018, the district LC5 chairman Mr Simon Erwagu revealed that about 500 heads of cattle belonging to unspecified number of Balalo herdsmen have occupied the parish of Akum in Acowa sub-county illegally for more than one month causing destruction to crop gardens.
Mr Erwagu said people are afraid that the illegal entrance of Balalo herdsmen is a disguise to grab their land and that it is also a security threats to the locals.
“May be they want to survey our land and put titles illegally and want to take advantage of my poor people,” the district chairman said.
He said the herdsmen who are moving with their wives and school going aged children have entered without the notice of the local leaders in the areas and are hesitant to leave on the request of the authorities.
Additionally, the Acowa sub-county LC3 chairman, Joseph Okwi Oria said they are receiving daily complaints from communities about visitors’ cattle destroying food crops from the gardens, something the leader said may heighten food insecurity coupled with devastating impact of water logging in the area.
He also emphasized that Balalo must leave the area because people believe that they want to grab land same way Baruli people has opted after their grandparent allowed them temporary settlement in Teso sub-region.
“We don’t want to enter in a situation where our land will be grabbed leaving us without pastures for our own animals,” Mr Okwi reiterated
According to Okwi, 200 hectares of land in Kapelebyong has recently been grabbed by grandchildren of Baruli people who their forefathers were given temporary settlement by Teso community.
It is from this background that Kapelebyong district council resolved to give a consequent two 48 hours of ultimatum from 17th to 18th October, 2018 for the herdsmen to leave the area peacefully or else the host community will determine what to do on them.
The local leaders therefore are anticipating serious outbreak of crisis due to too much pressure on the available resources in term of land, water, and pastures for animals belonging to the locals if nothing is done to drive out the nomads in the young district of
Another problem would also be food crisis since the herdsmen are carelessly raring animals on people’s crop gardens.
Kapelebyong being the neighbor to Karamoja region also on seasonal moment of sunshine received a lot of Karamojong animals that look for pastures and water.
Last year President Museveni through Minister of Agriculture Fisheries and Animal Husbandries, Vincent Ssempijja ordered them to quit northern Uganda particularly Acholi sub-region and Adjumani district and ensured the nomadic practice is abolished or transformed to modern method of animal production in Uganda.
The order also came after communities voiced their concerns over crop destruction by animals and conflict over land with the host communities.
In April this year, the directive was put into work and thousands of cattle belonging to Balalo who were pervasive in stated areas left the northern region in an eviction operation manned by Uganda People’s Defense Forces [UPDF].
The origin of Balalo herdsmen is unclear but they are mostly known people like Banyarwanda, Buruli, Banyankole and part of Karamojong who live and survive on cattle
Kapelebyong is one of the 35 newly formed districts and became operational in July 2018.