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NFA, Balaalo Fight Over Kayunga Forest Reserve

NFA, Balaalo Fight Over Kayunga Forest Reserve

A fight between Balaalo and the National Forestry Authority (NFA) has erupted after the herdsmen allegedly occupied Bajjo Central Forest Reserve in Galilaaya Sub-county, Kayunga District and have vowed not to vacate it.

About 800 herdsmen claim they have been staying in the forest reserve for more than 30 years and have been paying grazing licenses to NFwA. They are now protesting a move by NFA to evict them from the forest to pave way for the restoration of the reserve.

Last Friday, officials from the State House Anti-corruption Unit, led by Ms Kevin Mutamba Kayaga, the unit’s senior legal advisor, convened a meeting in the contested forest reserve to find a solution.

The meeting was attended by among others, Mr Moses Karangwa, the National Resistance Movement (NRM) chairman for Kayunga District; Mr Andrew Muwonge, the Kayunga District chairman; and Ms Mariam Kaberekwa, the Kayunga deputy resident district commissioner.

During the meeting, the herdsmen, led by Mr Charles Nkurunziza and Mr Fred Karangwa, claimed some ‘powerful’ people were collaborating with NFA to evict them.

“We have information that NFA is evicting us but at the same time allocating the forest land to new people. We think as sitting tenants, we should have been given priority before any new tenants are allocated forest land,” Mr Nkurunziza  said.

He added: “We are not rebels but they have brought guns to fight us and carry out their activities at night. They have razed all our buildings and are now sleeping in the bush while the whereabouts of some of our animals are unknown.”

Mr Moses Karangwa, the Kayunga District NRM chairman, said he would ensure the Balaalo stay in the reserve.

“I also have guns, if they [NFA] fight us we shall fight back. If they continue with this forceful eviction, I will order you (balaalo) to burn their graders,” Mr Karangwa said during the meeting.

But Mr Moses Muhumuza, the head of legal at NFA, dismissed claims of eviction.

“There is a section of people who are peddling lies that NFA is evicting them. The story of the balaalo is just cooked because the balaalo who were on the land were sensitised and we offered them land to carry out forest activities,” Mr Muhumuza said.

Ms Mutamba from the State House Anti-corruption Unit called for calm as the unit engages NFA and other stakeholders.

“Give us time to do our investigations,” Ms Mutamba pleaded with the rowdy Balaalo.

Executive Order

This fight comes months after President Museveni issued Executive Order No.3, in which he ordered the eviction of Balaalo from northern Uganda.

Security personnel started implementing the order last November after the grace period Mr Museveni had given herdsmen had expired.

On November 3, President Museveni while in Amuru District, asked officials responsible for the eviction exercise to ensure the Balaalo  who bought or hired land, but have not fenced it off nor have water for their cattle on the land, and those on government land in Lakang, Aswa and Maruzi Ranches and Got Apwoyo Reserve,  vacate in three weeks.

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