Balaalo herdsmen are struggling to beat an ultimatum of three days given to them to leave Katakwi district headquarters in eastern Uganda.
The Balaalo moved with their cattle to Katakwi with more than 2,000 heads of cattle after being chased away by the residents of Ongongoja sub-county, on January 11th, 2023 over struggles for pasture and water for the animals.
The residents also accused the Balaalo of interfering with their economic and agricultural activities when they failed to manage animals.
They were forcefully driven out of the grazing land in Ongongoja sub county to Katakwi district headquarters where the security agencies intervened. But the attempts by the security heads and some leaders to convince the residents to allow the Balaalo return to Ongongoja failed as residents threatened to cause destruction once the Balaalo return.
At Katakwi district headquarters, the Balaalo were given up to Sunday to leave the district as residents continued to pursue them. By Saturday night, some of the Balaalo were seen ferrying cattle in lorries to different destinations including Serere and Kapelebyong within Teso sub region while others were seen heading to Sebei sub region.
Sam Mugisha, with 69 heads of cattle says he was chased away on Thursday last week with some of his colleagues. “We have a lot of pressure to move out of the district that is why we are traveling at night. Even today (Saturday), we were attacked and we had to mobilize for transport at all costs to leave the district,” said Mugisha.
Kethron Mugowa, says he was picked by the LC3 Chairperson of Ongongoja from the wetland without any notice. He says he has lost ten cattle in the process.
Vincent Okwii, the Katakwi Deputy Resident District Commissioner says that attempts to convince the residents and their leaders for negotiations failed because the community is agitated by the presence of the Balaalo.
According to Okwii, some Balaalo had acquired land, others were renting while some were herdsmen hired by the indigenous people in Ongongoja to graze their animals but the commotion has not given the security team to sort them.
Information obtained from the security agencies in Katakwi indicate that Ongongoja Sub County has been hosting close to 2,000 heads of cattle belonging to the Balaalo but the issues of disagreement arose from failure from both parties to share the resources (grass and water).
The security sources say that while some of the Balaalo claim to have bought or rented land in Ongongoja, the said land was too small compared to the number of animals by individuals and households.
The source added that the Balaalo forcefully took extra land and denied the indigenous people water and pastures.
Statistics available in the district indicate that only Balaalo households had bought land in Ongongoja, eleven households were renting grazing land while the majority were either hired herdsmen or grazing without renting or buying land from residents.