Security forces in Amuru district have escalated the eviction of defiant migrant cattle keepers, known as Balaalo. The “Operation Harmony” eviction, initiated in November last year following an ultimatum from President Museveni, has seen 240 herds of cattle impounded over the weekend.
The cattle keepers were occupying government and private lands without meeting the fencing requirements, which include using four strands of barbed wire and providing water sources for the animals. The impounded cattle, loaded in 11 trucks, were transported out of the district on Saturday through the Akuru kwe checkpoint in Lamogi Sub-County.
Stephen Odong Latek, the Amuru Resident District Commissioner, stated that most impounded cattle were intercepted from government land in Lakang Sub-County, despite earlier warnings. Over 2,000 herds of cattle have been impounded in Amuru since November, with 1,000 already exiting the sub-region. The authorities plan to continue the executive order’s implementation until all non-compliant cattle keepers are evicted.
Joshua Nuwamanya, one of the evicted cattle keepers, claimed inadequate time for transportation and argued that the eviction timeline should be extended. Olivier Mugisha, a transporter, cited poor road networks affecting the cattle’s transportation.
The eviction was prompted by complaints from local leaders in the Acholi Sub-region, accusing cattle keepers of fraudulently acquiring customarily owned land. They also raised concerns about land conflicts, crop destruction, and damage to cultural sites. In response, the government suspended land title issuance in the Acholi Sub-region to verify land ownership legitimacy.
In 2019, retired Justice Galdino Okello Moro and others challenged the constitutionality of district land boards administering degazetted and former public lands under customary tenure in the Acholi Sub-region. The Constitutional Court ruled in February 2023 that leasing such land is unconstitutional. State Minister Grace Freedom Kwiyucwiny estimated that around 80,000 herds of cattle in Northern Uganda belong to non-compliant cattle keepers.