Acholi Lawmakers Call for Immediate Enforcement of Balalo Eviction Directive

acholi lawmakers call for immediate enforcement of balalo eviction directive
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Two members of parliament (MPs) representing the Acholi sub-region have expressed their frustration regarding the delay in evicting the Balalo community from Acholi land, as stipulated in Presidential Executive Order 3. In a press conference held on Friday, Philip Polly Okin Ojara, the MP for Chua West constituency in Kitgum district, and Gilbert Olanya, the MP for Kilak South constituency, voiced their concerns, arguing that the postponement of the eviction has led to increased tension in the region.

On May 19, 2023, President Yoweri Museveni issued Executive Order 3, which called for the removal of the Balalo community from Acholi land. However, the president later suspended the eviction to allow for consultations with various stakeholders, including the affected communities. The consultation period, set to expire on Friday, October 20, 2023, was intended to provide President Museveni with insights from the landowners in Acholi.

During the press conference at the Northern Uganda Media Club (NUMEC) in Gulu City, Philip Polly Okin Ojara and Gilbert Olanya expressed their disappointment at the extension of the consultation period. Ojara raised concerns about the delay, stating, “We consider this as an abuse because an executive order is a law by itself. When it has been issued, the report should go on the way and how it has been implemented, but it looks like there is ping pong going on. I don’t know what would be the purpose of the executive order. Was it even worthwhile to issue an executive order?”

Ojara emphasized that their concern is focused on the land rights and governance of indigenous people and urged the government to implement the executive order promptly and peacefully.

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Gilbert Olanya, on the other hand, accused the president of employing double standards and alleged that the delay in implementing the order was to enable the Balalo to secure land titles. He stated, “The president is looking for the best way of controlling the minds of the Acholi people, and he is not interested in chasing away Balalo and does not have any goodwill for the people of Acholi.”

Olanya clarified that their intent was not to discriminate against any tribe but to address the issue of Balalo moving with their cattle, causing damage to crops in the gardens. He pointed out that they were not opposing individuals’ land ownership but were concerned about the sale of customary and communal land, which, according to court rulings, is not for sale.

Furthermore, Olanya alluded to the compromise made with certain local leaders who received cattle, although he did not provide specific names.

On Wednesday, President Museveni held discussions with a delegation of leaders from Acholi, led by Chief Justice of Uganda, Alfonse Owiny-Dollo. The delegation included Minister of Relief, Disaster Preparedness, and Refugees, Hilary Onek, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs (International Affairs), Henry Okello Oryem, Minister of State for Economic Monitoring, Beatrice Akello Akori, Bardege-Layibi Division MP, Martin Ojara Mapenduzi, Kilak County MP, Anthony Akol, as well as opinion and cultural leaders, at State House Entebbe.

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