WEST NILE. An order by President Yoweri Museveni directing the nomadic herdsmen to vacate the West Nile region has elapsed with many of them citing lack of vaccination for foot and mouth disease for their failure to leave.
Mr Museveni had ordered the herdsmen to leave the region by March 15, 2018 after receiving numerous complaints from the local community, most prominent of which was the deliberate grazing of animals in gardens resulting into destruction of crops.
He instructed the resident district commissioners (RDC) to carry out the eviction through army and police enforcement but by Friday, a day after the expiry of the ultimatum, many pastoralists were still adamant.
“I do not have evidence that any pastoralists have left. I have tasked the RDC to summon an urgent security meeting to find out why they haven’t left and what action needs to be taken to get them out.,” Mr Steen Omito, the Pakwach district chairman said.
Mr Omito said vaccinations have been going on in his district and those who did not vaccinate their animals must have shunned the exercise deliberately.
“Foot and mouth disease is not a reason for Balaalo (herdsmen) to hang around,” he insisted.
But in Arua district, Dr Willy Nguma, the veterinary officer confirmed that his department had indeed run out of vaccines for the deadly animal disease.
He said some herdsmen procured their own vaccines and asked for permits to leave the district but those unable to find vaccines on their own would wait for the agriculture ministry to supply them.
Mr Peter Dibele, the Arua RDC said some of the pastoralists were leaving while others ignored the orders.
“The government is going to find out why they are not leaving and see how they can leave,” he said.
In Moyo district the RDC, Swaib Toko revealed that some herdsmen fled to South Sudan while others such as in Itula and Gimara Sub Counties claimed they have been employed by the local communities to graze animals that were given by some nomads as dowry for marrying their daughters.
He thinks such claims are emanating because the president’s order grants exception to people employed to work on the farms of local sedentary farmers and those only trading in sale of milk.
In Yumbe district, RDC Manasseh Wadia said he had sent agents to the Sub counties to find out how many herdsmen had refused to leave.
He indicated that some pastoralists listened and left before the expiry of the deadline but added that some may have remained because they have lived in Yumbe for many years.
“Some of these people have been here for five years and if they acquired land through legal means then the eviction order does not affect them. They only need to fence off their grazing areas,” he said.
The Obongi County Member of Parliament Mr Kaps Hassan Fungaro said the earlier the herdsmen left the better since their movement in West Nile region along the oil belt was suspicious with unknown intentions.