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Sale of Land to Pastoralists Suspended in Amuru

The State Minister for Foreign Affairs Henry Okello Oryem told URN that all land transactions between the balalo herdsmen and any parties in the district must be suspended until the committee verifies the type of transactions and land ownerships of all the herdsmen in the area.
Minister Henry Oryem (L) welcomed by Major Caesar Olweny (R) in Attiak Sub County. Photo by Emmy Daniel Ojara

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Security personnel in Amuru District have suspended all land transactions to the nomadic pastoralists. 

The resolution followed last Thursday’s directive by a select committee that was established by President Yoweri Museveni to have all the balalo herdsmen in the district vetted and their processes of acquiring lands thoroughly audited.  

The three-man committee is headed by Gen. David Muhoozi the State Minister for Internal Affairs and comprises the State Minister for Foreign Affairs Henry Okello Oryem, the Minister of State for Animal Industry, Lt. Col. Bright Rwamirama.

They are currently traversing the Acholi Sub Region following complaints of the invasion of the balalo herdsmen and concerns of fraudulently acquiring lands for herding their livestock.   

The State Minister for Foreign Affairs Henry Okello Oryem told URN that all land transactions between the balalo herdsmen and any parties in the district must be suspended until the committee verifies the type of transactions and land ownerships of all the herdsmen in the area.   

Oryem says that the directive took effect this week and will stand until January 25th or maybe be bond to extension, citing that some of the herdsmen fraudulently acquired lands in the areas, while some of them were sold lands belonging to the cultural institution without the notice and approval of local leaders and the cultural institution. 

Gen. David Muhoozi the State Minister for Internal Affairs added that all land transactions between the period will be canceled and not recognized by the vetting and auditing committee.   

The auditing and vetting committee will comprise the cultural institution, and the district security teams as well as the local leaders.   

The Attiak Sub County Chairperson, Samuel Akera welcomed the decision noting that the unregulated sale of land to pastoralists has imposed security threats to the community because some people are unscrupulously selling land that they don`t own hence causing violence. 

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Justo Okot Gwanga, Deputy Prime Minister Attiak Chiefdom noted that the unregulated land transactions have made the chiefdom lose some of its cultural sites, natural resources, and communal land to the herdsmen without the knowledge of the institution.   

In Okidi Parish, Attiak Sub County, local leaders estimate that the herdsmen are grazing more than 15,000 heads of cattle in the area.   

Anthony Akol, the Chairperson Acholi Parliamentary Group (APG) Chairperson noted that the residents are selling their lands for as low as Shillings 200,000 or 400,000 per acre.

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However, Beswerry Katunka, one of the herdsmen in Okidi Parish says they rightfully acquired 2,284 acres of land from the owners.  

In November 2020, President Yoweri Museveni directed police backed by the military to ensure that pastoralists seeking to graze in the Acholi sub-region procure land and fence it to restrict animals from encroaching on gardens.