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Tensions Escalate as Balaalo Herdsmen Resist Eviction from Kayunga Forest Reserve

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Kayunga, January 30, 2024 – A heated confrontation has unfolded between the National Forestry Authority (NFA) and Balaalo herdsmen in the Bajjo Central Forest Reserve of Galilaaya Sub-county, Kayunga District. The dispute centers around the eviction of approximately 800 herdsmen who claim to have resided in the forest reserve for over 30 years.

The Balaalo herdsmen allege that NFA intends to remove them from the forest to facilitate the restoration of the reserve. During a meeting convened last Friday by the State House Anti-corruption Unit, led by Ms. Kevin Mutamba Kayaga, the unit’s senior legal advisor, tensions flared as the herdsmen vehemently opposed their eviction.

Led by Mr. Charles Nkurunziza and Mr. Fred Karangwa, the herdsmen accused some influential individuals of collaborating with NFA in their forced eviction. Mr. Nkurunziza claimed, “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.”

He further stated that their buildings had been demolished, and some of their animals were missing. Mr. Moses Karangwa, the Kayunga District NRM chairman, expressed solidarity with the Balaalo, warning of potential retaliation. “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 declared during the meeting.

However, Mr. Moses Muhumuza, the head of legal at NFA, refuted claims of eviction, asserting that the Balaalo had been sensitized, and land had been offered to them for forest-related activities. Ms. Mutamba from the State House Anti-corruption Unit called for calm, urging the Balaalo to allow investigations to unfold.

This clash follows President Museveni’s Executive Order No.3, issued months ago, calling for the eviction of Balaalo from northern Uganda. Security personnel had initiated the implementation of the order last November, following the expiration of the grace period provided by the President.

As tensions escalate, the involvement of the State House Anti-corruption Unit suggests a high-level intervention in the ongoing conflict. The situation remains precarious, with both parties holding firm to their positions, raising concerns about potential violence and its impact on the broader community. The nation awaits further developments in this unfolding story.

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