A shout out to CJ Owiny- Dollo, Norbert Mao over Balaalo paranoia -Ofwono Opondo

Nomadic pastoralists christened ‘Balaalo’, originally from the Ankore cattle corridor have been with Uganda for ages especially when rinderpest and tsetse flies ravaged them forcing their herds and forced them to look for new areas to graze. Then came draught which caused pasture and water shortage which blew them further to Bukedi, Busoga, Teso and Lango in mid-1970s.

And then the ranching scheme of the 1960s that was meant to modernize livestock farming irrationally dispossessed many who remained in Ankore. The ranch restructuring scheme 1991-93 by NRM, in many cases simply parceled out ranches to the victorious new military elites emerging from the Luwero Bush war.

With the increasing socio-economic transformation under free-market enterprise, every economic activity is undergoing changes, and so the ‘Balaalo’ phenomenon too has mutated. Today’s ‘Balaalo’ are no longer the vulnerable nomadic pastoralists but rich, well-connected elites across ethnicities including ministers, MPs, businesspeople, Army Generals, police, security officers and civil servants who exploit insider information to access ‘idle’ land at a song. Knowing Uganda well, this is a fact and I have visited friends at their such recent acquisitions in Kiboga, Kyankwanzi, Nakaseke, Nakasongola, Buyende and Acholi areas.

In law, every Ugandan is free to move, settle and do business in any part of Uganda provided they do so lawfully and in peace. But the uproar against alleged ‘armed’ Balaalo, is casting dark shadows over Uganda’s journey towards building an acceptable social mobility and stability.

With utmost due respect, and without discounting their concerns, the tone of Chief Justice Alphonse Chigamoy Owiny-Dollo, Justice Minister Norbert Mao, and political rubble-rousers Odonga Otto, Gilbert Olanya and Anthony Akol among others threaten to take Acholi and Uganda backwards.

To paraphrase what the recently retired UPDF Gen. David Sejusa a.k.a. Tinyefuza posted on his social media account, is the tremors of seeking to transform the Indigenous pre-modern, pre-capitalist agrarian communities into free-market-capitalism. And many would concur with him that it’s naïve and an effort in futility to think that the village community in Acholi, Teso and Lango as elsewhere will keep land when everything is geared towards the market which now dictates ownership including land.

Owiny-Dollo and group should instead guide ‘their’ people on what they consider as the appropriate land values in the different parts of Acholi to safeguard them being lured to take low offers. Preventing commercial land transactions is counterproductive, while cross-ethnic settlements would build social pollination, integration, new ethos, and entrepreneurship.

Much of false red flag is usually by politicians and other elites especially from Acholi, Lango, and Teso are for cheap popularity to hoodwink ‘their’ people that they care most about them than others do. Yet, some of the noisemakers are the ones inviting and linking ‘Balaalo’ to the clan, community and family heads who control the land, often after receiving cash and support for self-gratification.

The only valid grounds against a ‘Mulaalo’ if proven through a diligent process would be if they were illegally marauding with livestock contrary to veterinary regulations and spreading diseases, or trampling on other people’s property especially crops and water sources. But even then, the normal redress of civil or criminal litigation against tress-passers could be sufficient.

So, when Owiny-Dollo recently threw his dice in what many saw as diatribe on various local radio stations, they couldn’t help but pity him. As CJ he’s conflicted because some of the disputes could at some point land on his desk for arbitration.

So far, none of the accusers apart from making public wild claims has adduced credible evidence that the alleged ‘Balaalo’ acquired land illegally or indeed destroyed crops of local people and or refused to adequately compensate as would be required by the law. Nor have they adduced evidence that guns are being used by the ‘Balaalo’ to wantonly graze their livestock over people’s land as a way of intimidation.

Forty years ago, before the advent of the NRM, land even within the enviros of Kampala was almost useless as a covetable commercial commodity, and a local Muganda landlord would pass ownership to an acquittance at their alcohol drinking joint without asking for a penny in return.

Today, land including in what used be known as far-off back-of-beyond places like Karamoja, Zombo, Bundibugyo or Adjumani has become such a precious commodity that a parent would murder a son to retain ownership, and sons kill, or forge the death certificate of a parent to gain inheritance.

Already there are many non-Ugandans who have legitimately bought, leased, or rented large tracks of land in various parts of Acholi and Uganda, and are doing brisk yet Owiny-Dollo as a law-abiding citizen hasn’t raised his finger against them. Therefore, Owiny-Dollo, Mao, Olanya and Akol complaints against the Balaalo going into Acholi could be for reasons other than stated.

There is no real logical in accepting other industries by so-called aliens, and not the ‘Balaalo’ if they legally and legitimately acquired the land, otherwise, politics aside, it’s partly why the implementation of the many Presidential Executive Orders is running into trouble.


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