Make no mistake; the pedestrian argument that the Acholi should style up, accept the Balaalo invasion and embrace them as investors for development and progress is hogwash, blackmail and reverse psychology by people who don’t mean well for Acholi.
Like our brothers the Baganda, the Acholi have been very accommodating. We have hosted and still host foreigners who do well to us. We give them names, land, wives and jobs. But we detest and shun the crooked lots and only tolerated them as the proverb goes, that “agulu pii odiyo otac.” This implies if he had a choice, the holder of the water pot would throw away the water pot with its weight.
It is now widely known that tens of high-ranking military officers of the UPDF, Uganda Police Force and tens more of politicians, both failed and serving, MPs and ministers, predominantly from one region, are behind the Balaalo invasion.
The arrogance with which these Balaalo play their hands is heart-wrenching in its insensitivity as they graze their cattle on crops, defile children, break up families, growing and selling opium, carving off community water points exclusively for themselves, deforesting acreages, cheating land owners and not following due processes. All because, their godfathers wield the power vested in guns and loads of cash, which they splash about without end, or so it seems.
Petitions against these evils were presented by Acholi leaders to President Museveni on October 18, but the puzzling response was that the Acholi should coexist and harmonise their relations with these Balaalo. Surprisingly, Mr Museveni had issued an Executive Order No. 3 and had declared these Balaalo Illegal migrants, termed them manipulative and indisciplined and said they must quit northern Uganda. But the President has since delayed, postponed and reversed his orders for the Balaalo to quit more than three times and he now says they must stay.
These reversals, postponements and change of positions by President Museveni force us to ask several questions about his intentions and motives for his dilly-dallying on the Balaalo invasion and their overdue eviction.
Many now wonder whether Gen Museveni is still in charge or is being held hostage by his top generals to settle the Balaalo in Northern Uganda? Many more question whether Mr Museveni’s intention towards the North has ever been clean and noble from the beginning? Or is could he be an accomplice to some grand scheme of land dispossession and the suffering being visited on the citizens of this country whose crime is to be Northerners?
Or has President Museveni’s Executive Order No.3 been a form of tranquilizer whose dosage must be added to keep the patients asleep and not feel the pulsating pain?
I guess President Museveni is not listening to the pleas of the people.
I was shockingly taken aback to hear callers on a recent radio talk show look back to a bleak time Joseph Kony of the LRA had leverage in the North. This could only have come from unfathomable disillusionment and frustration with the existing order. But our biggest puzzle is what has happened to the Ssabalwanyi, the all-time great fighter, Gen of the resistance, Yoweri Museveni, son of Kaguta, to appear both confused and indecisive on this Balaalo eviction?
What has happened to the robust Internal Security mechanism, an outfit that can almost tell what any Tom, Dick and Harry is having for dinner on any one day?
It beats belief that a group of marauding Balaalo herdsmen, sometime armed With guns, must run amok across Acholi land.
What has happened to the mighty UPDF whose 4th Division public relations officer, my good friend Telesphore Turyamumanya, must embarrass himself by speaking in tongues on a local FM and mumble why the UPDF cannot enforce an order by the Nation’s Commander in Chief?
What has happened to the checkpoint at Karuma Bridge that the trucks ferrying cows keep crossing and pouring into Acholi land unabated? Or perhaps are the cows being flown in or frogged-jumped into Acholi land?
I find these answers in one doctrine, namely that might is right and ensured through force by those strong enough to seize control of Acholi land through physical violence or demagogic manipulation.
This doctrine says ” a society’s view of right and wrong is determined by those in power”. This also applies to the current hot issue of the Balaalo invasion of Northern Uganda. But the Acholi sub-region is only waking up to this crisis that has bedeviled this country since 1986.
Perhaps the advent of rebels, especially the notorious Joseph Kony’s Lord Resistance Army (LRA), had served to only postpone this problem. But this kraptocracy or kraterocracy or rule based on coercive power by those strong enough to seize control through physical violence or demagogic manipulation has been witnessed in in Sembabule, Luweero, Nakaseke, Zirobwe, Kayunga, and Nakasongola, where even cows would vote in national elections, and also in Hoima and parts of Teso and Lango.
This doctrine of might is right is marked by deceit or deception, manipulation, brutality, thuggery, arrogance, and bribery, among other tactics. And this has now found fertile ground in Acholi for the reasons below.
First, the earlier threat of rebellion seem to have been dealt a death blow with men duly castrated, with no commanders to its name.
Second, was our sense of trust and honesty, which borders onnaivety.
Third, was our imposed abject poverty that now makes people sell their souls as did the biblical Esau, who traded a cup of porridge for his birth right.
Fourth, was the destruction or death of our value systems by 20 years of war. This explains why today, a crop of crooks with hardly any values, neither education and trade to their names have become a cartel or mafioso outfit, who are championing the atrocities against their own community.
Fifth, these mafioso now fratenise with the godfathers of the Balaalo, and are paid in cows or cash or Balaalo women. They purport to own chunks of land, and have stolen land in Lakang in Amuru, have made fake claims, were compensated and their appetite remains bubbling for more opportunity to cheat. These merchants are also agents of death who can kill for a song.
Sixth, was the systematic infiltration that has undermined the authority of our elders, cultural leaders and senior citizens. Some of these have become land brokers and commission agents doing the bidding of the politico-military oligarchs.
Seventh, are our so-called educated or learned goons who operate like unguided missiles that shoot at anything and in any direction purporting to speak for the Acholi community.
Finally, is a certain exploitative strand of Christianity purveyed by the Pentecostal or born-again sects who claim to have seen vision and have founded their con trade and now cast some occultic spell on their usually gullible followers.
But the elephant in the room is; who is the chairman of dubious Wealth Creation project, who can go round, delay, change and even reverse the Presidential Executive Order to evict the Balaalo from Acholi sub-region? Who is this giant hand that has now has vested indigenous rights to verify who owns land in Acholi, and has even created the Balaalo Group, and Association of Land Owners and Livestock Farmers in Acholi?
My final word is that for a way forward, President Museveni still enjoys some goodwill, which he needs not squander. The people of the North are hurting.
Robert Obita Adongakulu is a social and political commentator based in Gulu City, Northern Uganda.