President Yoweri Museveni has reiterated his order for nomadic pastoralists, often referred to as Balaalo, to leave northern Uganda if they fail to comply with the law. He issued this directive during discussions with leaders from the Acholi sub-region in Amuru district.
President Museveni stated that nomadic pastoralists who graze their cattle in non-fenced areas must leave immediately, describing their actions as reckless. He further directed the UPDF Division Commander, RPC, and the Minister for Northern Uganda to ensure that anyone with cattle in unfenced areas in Acholi, Lango, and West Nile sub-regions departs within three weeks.
The eviction order is in line with Executive Order Number 3 of 2023, which the president issued five months ago. This order mandated the pastoralists to vacate these areas due to their failure to operate in an orderly manner, which would prevent their animals from damaging people’s crops.
According to the Executive Order, every pastoralist is expected to have fenced land with a water source to prevent their animals from straying and destroying crops. A survey conducted between June and September by an inter-ministerial technical committee registered at least 217 non-compliant pastoralists in Acholi alone. Some of these pastoralists were also grazing cattle on government land or ranches.
President Museveni stressed that the pastoralists have three weeks to remove their cattle from the area. He emphasized that the issue is not about ownership or renting contracts but about preventing damage to crops. A law criminalizing nomadism is also being drafted to address the issue more comprehensively.
The Minister for Northern Uganda, Grace Freedom Kwiyocwiny, explained that there were varying opinions on the eviction, with some calling for immediate eviction while others advocated for a gradual process. President Museveni indicated that the matter will be further discussed, including the situation of those who have properly fenced their land.
High levels of poverty and the desire to transition into the money economy have driven an increase in land sales in Acholi, leading to conflicts. A report from the inter-ministerial technical committee found that there are 899 cattle farms in northern Uganda. The issue of land ownership and customary land sales remains a complex matter in the region.
These actions by President Museveni are aimed at addressing the conflict between nomadic pastoralists and crop farmers and ensuring the protection of agricultural livelihoods in northern Uganda.