Acholi Region MP Faces UHRC Summons for Incitement Against Balaalo Community

acholi region mp faces uhrc summons for incitement against balaalo community
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The Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) has summoned Kilak South Member of Parliament, Gilbert Olanya, over allegations of delivering a divisive and hateful speech aimed at inciting violence against the Balaalo community within the Acholi Sub-region. This incident, stemming from a viral video that circulated more than a week ago, has raised concerns about the impact of such speech on the region’s social fabric.

In the video, MP Olanya is reported to have addressed Acholi community members, urging them to take a stance against the Balaalo, whom locals claim have encroached upon their lands in Acholi. In particular, he asserted that the Balaalo must vacate the area, further encouraging the Acholi people to rise and expel the pastoralists from their land.

Chairperson of the UHRC, Mariam Wangadya, conveyed during a press briefing on Thursday that the contents of the video were deemed divisive, sectarian, discriminatory, unlawful, and constituted hate speech against the Balaalo community. An English translation of Olanya’s statements was presented, reaffirming the concerning nature of his rhetoric.

Initially scheduled to appear before the commission on a Tuesday, MP Olanya requested a postponement to Thursday at 10 a.m. However, when he failed to appear after one and a half hours, Wangadya addressed the media and summoned the MP to appear before the commission on the following Monday.

Following the summons, Olanya explained to the media that his call to the Acholi people echoed President Museveni’s directive to have the Balaalo evicted from the region.

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Wangadya emphasized that every Ugandan has the right to reside in their chosen area throughout the country. She stressed that the Balaalo, like other community members, are entitled to this freedom as long as they legally occupy the land.

The chairperson also called upon the police to enforce the laws against sectarianism as outlined in the Penal Code Act. She pointed out that instances of sectarian and hateful speech have been observed within society and called upon all government agencies, including the President, to combat what she referred to as a “monster.”

Wangadya further disclosed that she has instructed all human rights regional offices to document cases of hate speech and provide periodic reports to headquarters for further action. She underscored the inappropriateness of discrimination in a country characterized by diverse cultures and ethnicities.

For several years, the Balaalo, originally from Western Uganda and neighboring Rwanda, have settled on land in the Teso and Acholi regions, despite resistance from local residents who accuse them of forcibly appropriating their land.

In 2021, the President appointed a committee, including Gen David Muhoozi, Col (Rtd) Charles Engola, and Col Bright Rwamirama, to implement an order for the eviction of the Balaalo from Northern Uganda. While some Balaalo left the land, others had reportedly returned with their cattle to Acholi by January 2023.

In May 2023, President Museveni issued Executive Order Number 3, setting a deadline of September 30 for the eviction of the Balaalo. However, this order did not take effect, and the President subsequently extended the deadline to October 20, which has since passed without any action being taken.

A verification committee led by Prof Jack Nyeko Pen-Mogi, the acting chairperson of the Uganda Land Commission, began investigating allegations of illegal settlement by the Balaalo. Their report, released last month, pointed to manipulation, intimidation, and the destruction of gardens by some Balaalo as they sought to forcibly occupy land in the Acholi subregion.

The committee recommended, among other measures, that the government evict these illegal settlers from Acholi land. The government, however, has not yet announced its stance following the report.

In a recent meeting with a delegation from Acholi, President Museveni encouraged coexistence between the Acholi and the Balaalo, pledging to intervene once presented with “factual examples of the crimes being committed.” Nevertheless, the failure to enforce presidential orders and the call for coexistence have left some residents of Acholi feeling unprotected by the state.

When questioned about the UHRC’s focus on condemning one group rather than addressing the root causes of the conflict, Wangadya hinted that evidence supporting such arguments had yet to be established. She assured that the commission is indeed investigating the matter but reiterated that her primary concern currently lies with hate speech. She encouraged those with land ownership grievances to seek legislative avenues for resolution.

UHRC Summons MP Olanya Over Alleged Balaalo Hate Speech Timeline

Date Event
More than a week ago Viral video of MP Olanya inciting violence against the Balaalo
Thursday UHRC Chairperson Mariam Wangadya’s statement on the allegations
Tuesday Initial summons for MP Olanya to appear before the commission
Thursday MP Olanya’s request for a rescheduled appearance
Monday MP Olanya’s subsequent summons by UHRC
Ongoing Debate over the conflict between Acholi residents and the Balaalo
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