The National Economic Empowerment Dialogue (NEED) leader Joseph Kabuleta Kizza has advised the people of Acholi Sub-region to join hands push away every groups of people that are encroaching on their land following the discovery of oil.
Over a decade ago, oil was discovered in Nwoya district in the Acholi by a French oil and gas company- Total SA.The discovery came in the aftermath of seismic studies around the Murchison falls area by its Ugandan operations, Total Exploration and Production (Total E&P) in September 2012 and up to date, the East African country is yet to start its exploration.
Other districts in the Sub-region include Agago, Amuru, Gulu, Kitgum, Lamwo, Pader and Omoro.
While meeting local leaders and residents of Acholi sub-region on Monday, Kabuleta that there has been a growing number of the Balaalo with the subregion which pauses worry since their presence has been sighted in many parts of the country where oil has been discovered.
The former presidential candidate said that the Balaalo are only interested in settling in places where oil has been discovered.
“When they discovered oil in Bunyoro, within a short period of time, the Balaalo were already in the Sub-Region. They usually have guns. Now even here in your area (Acholi) when oil was discovered, they did the same thing. Many of them have settled here with their guns. They graze their cattle with guns in their possession,” Kabulta said.
He added that, “The same case is in Sebei; Balaalo and oil. We wonder whether the cows of these Balaalo feed on oil. Where do they get the guns? And the most annoying part is when they go in a place, they grab the community land and they claim it as belonging to them. By the end of the day, they render you people landless,”.
Kabuleta also rallied the Acholi locals to advocate for change of government if they want to fully enjoy the natural resources in their area.
“Those who steal or rustle cattle have an aim of ensuring that you don’t settle on your land because if you don’t have cattle to be kept on it then it will be very easy for you to sell the asset to them since most times it will be idle and useless on your side. So in order to fight cattle rustling and land grabbing, we must change government because as long as this current establishment is still in power, nothing is going to change.”
The politician further pinned government for deliberately denying the local people in Acholi their full rights of owning land by refusing to give them land titles which makes it easy the Balaalo to grab land that belongs to the indigenous people.
He however, advised the locals not to lower the guard, saying they should stand up and fight for what rightly belongs to them.
The number of Balaalo now spread across the Sub-region has reportedly increased since 2017 amid growing concerns over land rights and conflict.
On October 24, 2017, President Yoweri Museveni directed the army and the Agriculture ministry to evict the Balaalo pastoralists from Acholi and northern Uganda at large.
Four years later, the number of pastoralists and the population of their animals across the sub-region has more than tripled.
In 2021, the President rechoed his directive by giving the Balaalo two months to vacate northern Uganda or face forceful eviction and prosecution.
In a letter dated November 2 to the Prime Minister, Robinah Nabbanja, Museveni described the herdsmen as illegal migrants whose animals remain a persistent problem to the farming communities in the north, specifically in the Acholi sub-region.