Recent revelations highlight the efforts of Acholi leaders in engaging with Gen Salim Saleh, the chief coordinator of Operation Wealth Creation and senior presidential advisor on Defense, to persuade President Museveni not to expel Balaalo herdsmen from the Acholi Sub-region.
A gathering was convened by the Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) Secretariat on June 25, which brought together officials such as resident district commissioners (RDCs), LC5 chairpersons, commercial officers, DISOs (district internal security officers), production officers, CAOs (chief administrative officers), and Members of Parliament from the Acholi, Lango, and West Nile sub-regions.
The meeting, chaired by Gen Saleh, took place at Gulu University’s main hall and discussed matters related to OWC progress and the Parish Development Model, with the media asked to exit the room.
Sources present at the meeting revealed that the discussions aimed at advocating for the continued presence of Balaalo herdsmen in the northern regions.
These leaders urged Gen Saleh to communicate with his elder brother, President Museveni, to reconsider his decision to evict the Balaalo.
Though the leaders lacked precise statistical evidence to support the positive impact of the herdsmen, they asserted that the Balaalo’s presence had contributed to cattle breeding improvements and boosted livestock trade in the region.
A source requesting anonymity shared that an agreement was reached during the meeting for Gen Saleh to address his brother and request a suspension of the eviction order.
The leaders proposed conducting an audit to assess the actual impact of the Balaalo in the area.
A verification process was initiated in Amuru District on July 31, then expanded to Nwoya District, supervised by Gen Saleh. The verification team included local leaders and representatives from various sectors.
The verification process involved collecting data about Balaalo herdsmen, their cattle, and land ownership, aiming to ascertain the extent of their impact and adherence to regulations.
The final report was scheduled to be submitted to Gen Saleh on August 8.
However, opposition from some Acholi MPs emerged, claiming bribery, intimidation, and conflict of interest within the verification exercise. These MPs demanded the immediate termination of the verification process.
In response, President Museveni deferred the Balaalo expulsion order to September 30. He emphasized the importance of strong fencing to prevent cattle from damaging crops and called for transparent land ownership processes.
Mixed reactions followed the President’s decision, with some Acholi leaders questioning the political motives behind the orders.
As discussions continue on the matter, uncertainties remain about potential relocation for the Balaalo and how their rights and contracts would be addressed.