Balaalo Eviction: Former MP Candidate, 9 others arrested for raiding cattle farm in Gulu

UPDF Soldiers arrest Patrick Okello Onguti and the others over illegal entry into Balaalo cattle farms on Thursday afternoon (Photo/David Okema)

Gulu, (UG): The former Parliamentary candidate for Aswa County in the 2021 general elections, Patrick Okello Onguti alongside nine (9) other people have been arrested for allegedly raiding a cattle farm in enforcement of the presidential directive on evicting the cattle migrants known as Balaalo from Northern Uganda.

Okello, Owen Chris Okoya, the LCIII chairman of Owalo Sub County and the others were arrested on Thursday afternoon, November 23, by UPDF soldiers from Lugore barracks in Palaro sub-county Gulu district.

DailyExpress understands that on Thursday at about 1:30 pm, the group raided the cattle belonging to a Balaalo Herdsman only identified as Enock with the intention of driving out about 150 cattle after the community decried severe damages caused by his animals in their gardens.

“We have not committed any offence, we only went and drove the cattle out from people’s gardens and took them to the kraal. We are peaceful, we didn’t beat any animal or any herdsman, and we acted within the law,” Okello reacted upon being arrested by the UPDF soldiers from Palaro barracks.

The army commander who led the operation identified as Innocent says the army will not allow anybody to do anything that may cause violence and warned that until the deadline for the Balaalo passes, the army will safeguard the herdsmen, unless otherwise.

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“Nobody should take the law into his or her hands. The presidential order is very clear; and only the Regional Police Commander, Minister of Northern Uganda and the Army are given the mandate to enforce the eviction once the deadline expires on November 25th, we shall swing into action on the non-compliance cattle keepers,” Innocent assured the team.

The chairperson of Owalo Sub-County, Owen Chris Okoya guides the cattle back to the kraal before arrest on Thursday afternoon

READ ALSO: Inside Museveni’s directive on Balaalo to vacate the Greater North in three weeks

During the process of driving the cattle, the LC3 chairman, Owen Chris also recovered an abandoned UPDF camouflage cap belonging to the soldiers who were herding the animals and handed it to the army commander.

Locals decry destruction of their gardens

Amony Margaret, one of the locals whose sorghum garden was seriously eaten up by animals, said the Balaalo herdsman releases the animals into people’s gardens and when they complain, they become arrogant.

“Cows ate up my sorghum and when we complained to Enock, he only gave us Shs100,000 in compensation and when we told him it was too little he added Shs20,000. But this money is nothing. My garden is worth more than Shs120,000. For sure, I will harvest this leftover sorghum and next year, I will not be able to plant anything here because of the animal,” she cried.

One of the sorghum gardens destroyed by the animals allegedly belonging to the Balaalo

When this reporter, trekked the village, evidence of cattle eating crops in the communities’ gardens was gathered, plus the charcoal burning activities in the grazing areas where several surviving small trees are being cut for cremation.

When contacted, the UPDF 4th Division Army Spokesman, Maj. Telesphor Turyamumanya confirmed the arrest. “Yes, we arrested them and handed them over to the police,” he confirmed, declining to mention the charges against them.

The arrest comes just a day after a security team led by acting Gulu RDC Okidi James Cosmas, Police, local leaders and the army on Wednesday met in Palaro Sub-county to give awareness to the community and cattle keepers about the upcoming eviction exercise to be enforced by November 25th.

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Logs of trees piled for cremation into charcoal in the grazing area.

President Museveni recently extended the deadline for implementation of Executive Order No.3 on migrant cattle keepers (Balalo) from Northern Uganda up to November 25th stating clearly that all cattle keepers must fence their land, dig water sources, settle land disputes or else vacate.

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