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Minister Omona says FMD delaying Balaalo Eviction from Northern Uganda

Dr. Omona speaking to former Minister for Northern Uganda, Ms. Kwiyucwiny at the Event. PHOTO/DAVID OKEMA

Gulu, (UG):- The new Minister in charge of Northern Uganda Dr Kenneth Omona has revealed that the implementation of the Presidential Executive Order No. 3 on the eviction of non-compliance Balaalo cattle keepers from the region is on course despite delays arising from quarantines caused by the Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD).

Dr Omona made the remarks during a consultative homecoming meeting at his regional office in Gulu City over the weekend.

“The Executive Order No. 3 still stands, and we will implement it [to the dot],” Dr Omona stated, adding that “it is true that what delayed us was the declaration of quarantine in certain areas, but as soon as the government declares this area free, this order is going to be executed, and I am going to be here and in charge to ensure that it is executed.”

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Mr. Akol congratulated the new minister upon his new appointment. Dr. Omona replaced Ms. Grace Freedom Kwiyucwiny who has served in a similar position since 2016.

According to Mr Akol, Dr Omona’s appointment came at a critical moment when Northern Ugandans had high expectations to see several special government programmes and activities unfinished by his predecessor, be completed.

Among some of the critical matters, Mr. Akol said, was the contentious exercise of evicting the non-compliance cattle keeper Balaalo from northern Uganda as per Executive Order No. 3 by President Museveni.

“Foot and Mouth Disease failed the eviction of Balaalo but it didn’t stop animals from entering the northern region, really?” Mr. Akol wondered.

On March 22, 2024, the former minister for Northern Uganda, Ms. Grace Freedom Kwiyucwiny suspended the eviction of the Balaalo cattle keeper from the region over the issue of foot and mouth disease.

Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) is a severe, and highly contagious viral disease of livestock that affects cattle, goats, sheep, pigs, and other cloven-hoofed ruminant animals and has a significant economic impact on production, consumption, and trade in animal products, according to the World Organisation of Animal Health. 

According to the letter of suspension by Ms Kwiyucwiny, the suspension was to last until June 2024 to enable the government agency, the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry, and Fisheries, to manage the foot and mouth disease.

Locals drove Balaalo’s animals in Palaro Subcounty, Gulu District, in November 2023. PHOTO/David Okema

In February, Maj. Gen. David Kyomukama, permanent secretary of MAAIF, issued animal quarantines banning animal movement, sales, and production in 36 districts affected by FMD. The districts were Nakasongola, Ngora, Namisindwa, Ntungamo, Rakai, Rwampara, Butaleja, Kazo, Kiboga, Fort Portal, Kibuku, Mbarara, Lyantonde, Kiruhura, Kyankwanzi, Kassanda, Kayunga, Gomba, Kabarole, Luuka, Lwengo, Mpigi, Mityana, Kyotera among others.

The same guideline also put other districts in northern, eastern, central, and western Uganda under surveillance by the veterinary experts from the MAAIF. 

A week ago, MAAIF announced in a post on their official X handle that the government had received 3 million doses of FMD from Egypt.

“Uganda-Egypt collaboration in the fight against Foot and Mouth Disease: Uganda received a consignment of 3 million doses of FMD vaccine from the Government of Egypt, which was received in Entebbe by a delegation led by @cdfupdf Gen. @mkainerugaba and Hon. @FrankTumwebazek” the official X (formerly Twitter) post reads.

According to the Minister of State for Agriculture and Animal Industries, Dr. Bright Rwamirwama Kanyontore’s social media post on May 27th, the vaccines will cover 60% of the 16 million livestock at risk of FMD.

“On behalf of MAAIF, I today handed over 3 million doses of FMD vaccines to 27 districts at the National Animal Diseases Diagnostic Epidemiology Centre (NADDEC) in Entebbe. The vaccines procured from Egypt will support the districts that reported outbreaks. The FMD vaccine doses allocated will cover 60% of the 16 million livestock at risk,” Dr. Rwamirwama posted on X.

Dr. Rwamirwama noted that, effective next month (July), there will be a new policy coming into effect on animal vaccination. According to the minister, the policy will compel all farmers to vaccinate their animals twice a year. Farmers will be made to buy the FMD vaccine doses through processes that will be facilitated by MAAIF.

The Executive Order No. 3 directed that all Balaalo cattle keepers herding their animals in Northern Uganda who do not fence off their land and are unable to provide all requirements, including water sources and a sizable number of animals on the land, must be evicted.

However, since the eviction exercise commenced on November 24, 2024, it is estimated that only 5,000 out of 80,000 cattle belonging to the non-compliance herders were impounded for eviction.

Nonetheless, Dr. Omona said they will swing into action and evict all non-compliant migrant cattle keepers (Balaalo) after the government declares Northern Uganda free from the risk of FMD.

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