Dr. Ephraim Kamuhangire, Senior Presidential Advisor on Culture wrote in The New Vision, Friday, September 2, 2011, under the headline “There is value in pastoralists.” He was responding to an article by Nwoya woman Member of Parliament (M.P), Lilly Adong, which had appeared in the same paper on August 24. Adong’s article was, in turn, a response to an article by Bosco Ochira in the same paper of August 18. All the three articles were about the invasion of Nwoya by Balaalo.
Dr. Kamuhangire made some factual errors, which must not go uncorrected. He claims that records of the 1931 population census show that there were 30 Balaalo in Kyoga, then part of Lango District. What has that number got to do with the current and on-going invasion of various districts by Balaalo? Quoting ancient figures does not help solve the problems being caused to other Ugandans by the Balaalo.
It is true that the cattle of Balaalo destroy people’s crops in Nwoya. The presence of Balaalo cannot, therefore, be of value to the people whose crops are being destroyed. Hon. Adong was irrefutably clear and correct on this. In addition, the Balaalo are so arrogant that no reasonable person would welcome them. A story is told of a Mulaalo whose cattle destroyed two acres of somebody’s cassava in Nwoya, telling that person that “my cattle only eat the leaves but not the tubers which are in the ground.”
Kamuhangire does not seem to know the difference between pastoralism, nomadism and ranching. It is pastoralism that normally translates results in nomadic and transhumant society while ranching is an industry. To compare the ranches in Kiruhura with pastoralism which the Balaalo invaders are trying to export to Nwoya and elsewhere is to miss the point.
It is a big lie and a deliberate attempt to re-write history to state, as Dr. Kamuhangire did, that: “I need not remind us of the role the pastoralists played in the Lake Kyoga basin in the 1960s and 1970s in the establishment and sustenance of the Soroti meat packers.” There were no pastoralists, who owned animals, at the time in the Lake Kyoga basin. The Balaalo who were in Teso, Lango and Acholi at the time were employed as labourers to look after the cattle of the indigenous owners. We had one in our village called “Yowana”. They were paid in kind by milk and ghee. Later they started stealing the animals they were entrusted with and they were all chased away. The responsible UPC government had set up government ranches to supply Soroti meat packers, whose capacity was 2000 animals per day, to ensure constant and reliable supply.
The protection and promotion of Fundermental and Other Human Rights and Freedoms provided in Chapter Four of the 1995 Constitution are very clear. They have been part of all our constitutions since 1962. Article 29 (2)(a), which Dr. Kamuhangire, and others like him, seem to misinterpret does not protect the Balaalo who move to occupy land in other districts by force. It reads: “29. (2) Every Ugandan shall have the right – (a) to move freely throughout Uganda and reside and settle in any part of Uganda;” It is about the right of an individual, not a group of Balaalo moving with their animals on lorries and trailers to go and off-load them on other people’s land at night and at gun-point. People like Dr. Kamuhangire who support this method of land acquisition are the enemies of the integration of Ugandans as intended by the Constitution.
Dr. Kamuhangire says if there are Balaalo still left in Nwoya, they should be protected and those who have left should be encouraged to return. Protected and encouraged to return by who? By the state? Where would that leave the sanctity of land ownership? How can anybody advocate for the protection of invaders? The invaders must go, and they will go.
The most laughable and most unfortunate statement made by Dr. Kamuhangire is that allowing pastoralists to remain in Nwoya would provide employment to Acholi and the district would develop. Employment to do what? To look after and milk their cattle on our own land occupied without our consent? Pastoralists are by nature intrawards, incestuous, hardy, always seeking domination of neighbouring settled cultivators and troubling central governments. They will never employ anybody from a different group. So, what is Dr. Kamuhangire talking about?
The people of Nwoya and the people of Acholi as a whole are united against any move to grab their land. I call upon the Acholi MPs in the 9th Parliament to forget their partisan differences, unite and continue to spearhead the struggle to defend our heritage and the only asset left – The Land.
J. L. Okello-Okello
Consultant Valuer &
Former MP (Chua)