Yesterday, hundreds of inhabitants of the Ongongoja and Guyaguya sub-counties in the Soroti District of eastern Uganda mobilized their neighbors and seized Balaalo livestock.
Later, they led the herd to the district office. The locals were complaining about what they perceived as the Balaalo’s ongoing provocations, alleging that the cattle owners let their animals to wander into their farms and destroy crops.
Balaalo’s population has increased, and the locals have asked that it leave the area immediately. They assert that some of them are armed and endangering the lives of nearby farmers.
In an interview with Monitor yesterday, Mr. Silver Icumar, a local from Guyaguya, claimed that the Balaalo are untouchable and that whenever they request police help, they are compromised because they are well-off and connected. He claimed that due to their bad behavior and refusal to integrate into the community, they decided to drive them out.
“When we complain, some of them have guns and threaten to shoot at us. Today, we mobilised the willing boys, men and women, and we drove their cows to the district headquarters. Let them find where to place the Balaalo, for us we are tired,” he said.
Another local who claims to have been wronged, Mr. Samuel Omeke, a resident of Okulonyo Village in Ongongoja, claims that the Balaalo herders drove the cows into his plantation, causing him to lose all of his three acres of cassava.
“I lodged my complaint to the sub-county production department, but nothing has been done, these pastoralists seem connected, they have the money to silence those in authority,” Mr Omeke said.
“We have accommodated them for five years, but they have become negligent with their herding,’’ he said.
Ongongoja’s chairman, Mr. William Omeke, claimed that the cows had destroyed more than 150 gardens of cassava. “At first it was our neighbours’ cows from Karamoja. We managed to chase them away late last year hoping that the remaining Balaalo pastoralists will change, but they have not,” he said.
As a figurehead who has been listening to the grievances of the populace, Mr. Omeke claimed, he helped the locals drive the cows to the district office.
The Balalo run the risk of starving the populace, according to Mr. Samuel Elvis Ojula, the chairperson of Katakwi Sub-county.