Evicted pastoralists returning to Buliisa
Some of the pastoralists who were evicted from Buliisa District in 2010 are returning and repossessing the oil-rich lands they were chased from, causing tension amongst locals.
For the last three months, the pastoralists, popularly known as Balaalo, have been ferrying large herds of cattle back to the villages of Waiga, Bugana and Kataleba in Buliisa district.
The pastoralists were evicted in December 2010 in an operation that was overseen by controversial army General and then Coordinator of Intelligence Services, David Sejusa.
Prior to their eviction, they had clashed with locals on numerous occasions over ownership of the land, some of which is adjacent to the Ngara-1 Kigogole, Nsoga and Ngege oil wells, under Exploration Area-2.
However, they challenged their eviction and sued the Attorney General, Gen. Sejusa, the Inspector General of Police and the Buliisa MP, Stephen Mukitale, among others.
Consequently, in January, 2013, the High Court in Masindi ruled that the eviction was illegal but blocked the pastoralists from returning to Buliisa, instead awarding them general damages and compensation of two million shillings (about $750) each.
But, according to their chairperson, Grace Bamurangye Bororoza, the pastoralists have now resolved to repossess the land having waited for their compensation in vain.
They obtained an interim court order directing district officials, specifically Chairman Fred Lukumu and Hon. Mukitale, not to harass or evict them again.
“The respondents, their agents, servants or any person deriving interests from the respondents desist from any further harassment and or eviction of the applicants, their families and or any attempt of disturbing the applicants’ use and or occupation of the suit land until and after the main application is finally heard and determined by the court,” read the order that was issued on 28th November 2014 by the Masindi High Court Acting Registrar, Jesse Byaruhanga.
According to Hon. Mukitale, the herdsmen return to Buliisa is being influenced by high-ranking government officials seeking to grab land. He fears that the development could cause misunderstandings with the locals again.
“I think they should stop coming because they are going to create more conflict with the host community and anybody who needs peace in the country should not support them,” he told Oil in Uganda.
Some of the pastoralists claim to have land purchase agreements and say they bought the land from the locals as far back as 10 years.
Report by our Hoima Correspondent