THE Member of Parliament for Buliisa County, Steven Birahwa Mukitale, says he wants the Baralo (herdsmen) out of Masindi District. He claims they are trespassers and has declared them â€œunwantedâ€ persons. This is a violation of their rights and should be handled as a constitutional issue.
Article 29(2)(a) of the Constitution states that â€œevery Ugandan shall have the right to move freely throughout Uganda and to reside and settle in any part of Uganda.â€ No. III of the National Objectives and Directive Principles of State policy calls for national unity, peace and stability.
Article 26(1) states that â€œevery person has a right to own property either individually or in association with othersâ€ and the subsequent sub-clauses spell out the conditions under which a person can be lawfully deprived of property. Therefore, the conflict in Buliisa is a test of constitutional governance in Uganda.
The 600 so-called Baralo families claim to own the land where they live and have documentary evidence to prove that they legally acquired the land through lawful purchases.
It is possible that Birahwa owns property in Buganda. Would it be fair to him if the Baganda one morning told every non-Muganda to leave Buganda soil?
The Mengo governmentâ€™s position is that people should live anywhere rather than being dumped into Buganda after they have been chased from other areas. That is why Mengo is opposed to the Governmentâ€™s proposal to resettle the Baralo in Kiboga. The Baralo can also challenge the proposed resettlement in court.
The indigenous people of Buliisa, the Bagungu, who willingly sold their land to Baralo, are living happily with the immigrants without any complaint.
The Baralo have been in the area for several years and most of them bought the land in the presence of local authorities. They obtained cattle movement permits from the relevant authorities and they have documentary evidence to this effect.
Therefore, allegations that the crowds which were shown on television recently as demonstrating against the Baralo were ferried from other areas and are not surprising.
The land question in Buliisa was brought to the High Court and registered as case No. 68 of 2007. The Baralo secured an injunction halting their eviction from their land. They took the constitutional path because they know their constitutional rights and how to exercise them. Therefore, it is wrong for anybody to fan tribal hatred and mob justice to settle property ownership wrangles using crude tools such as pangas and spears. A herdswoman, Grace Bwororoza, sustained bodily injuries as a result of the incitement and the case was registered as SD 10/01/06/2007 at Katareeba police post.
The media is being misused to inflame ethnic hatred as was the case in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide. It is not true that the Baralo in Buliisa carry guns nor are they lawless and dangerous to society. If that was true, the local leaders would have helped security officials to recover the guns. The media should not accept to be used for divisive propaganda. Media practitioners should strive to be analytical when reporting on sensitive matters.
There is talk that the protection given to the Baralo by the security agencies after the court injunction shows that the Government favours them. Should the Government relinquish its constitutional obligation of protecting its citizens to lawless gangs? I commend the Government for protecting citizens and their property.
The writer is Secretary for youth in the Uganda Banyarwanda Association (UMUBANO)
Herdsmen have right to live anywhere in Uganda