Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo has accused the Balaalo, nomadic pastoralists in northern Uganda, of acting as proxies for army generals and ministers involved in land grabbing. During a radio talk show on Radio Rupiny, the Chief Justice revealed that he conveyed this information to President Museveni during a meeting on October 18, stating that modern-day Balaalo include 15 ministers and army generals, as mentioned in a letter from Gen Salim Saleh, the President’s brother.
Justice Owiny-Dollo, who leads the Judiciary, highlighted that the Balaalo issue, a contentious topic in national discourse, is causing unrest among natives. He asserted that President Museveni’s advisors, who should guide him on resolving the matter, are instead exacerbating the problem by being involved in land grabbing.
While speaking on the radio, the Chief Justice did not specify whether his comments were official or personal statements. However, he emphasized that the Balaalo situation was unsettling the region’s residents, some of whom falsely believe there is a government agenda against them.
The Balaalo, nomadic pastoralists from western Uganda, have faced opposition in various parts of the country due to concerns about free-range cattle damaging agricultural land. President Museveni issued Executive Order 3 in May, directing nomads without fenced farms or water on their land to leave northern Uganda.
Justice Owiny-Dollo recounted his conversation with the President, challenging him on why army generals were involved in grabbing land belonging to the Acholi people. He quoted himself asking, “The Balaalo who are there are (your) army generals because your brother (Gen Saleh) wrote to you pointing that the land owners were your ministers and army chiefs, the same ministers who would have been helping you to save the Acholi; they are instead robbing land to add to the problems of the Acholi.”
The Balaalo issue has triggered a unified demand from Acholi leaders, political figures, and civic groups for the pastoralists to leave. President Museveni has extended the deadline for their departure three times, with the last extension lapsing on November 17. The Chief Justice revealed that he informed the President that ministers and military generals, instead of advising on the matter, were “dragging them deeper into the pit.”
In response to the revelations made by the Chief Justice, Farouk Kirunda, the deputy presidential press secretary, reiterated that the Executive Order was still valid, and the eviction of the Balaalo would proceed as scheduled. The Balaalo would be escorted out of the districts with support from resident district commissioners (RDCs) and security personnel.
Justice Owiny-Dollo also hinted that Gen Salim Saleh expressed displeasure with the Executive Order during a telephone conversation. The Chief Justice conveyed that Gen Saleh believed the order was wrong and criticized the tight deadline for relocation given to the Balaalo.
The Balaalo issue has stirred debate and protests, with Acholi leaders emphasizing the communal ownership of land and rejecting individual claims to sell it. The upcoming deadline for the Balaalo’s departure has heightened tensions in the region.