The Court of Appeal in Kampala has indefinitely blocked the eviction of pastoralists in Buliisa, placing an injunction against any efforts by individuals or government to evict the herdsmen from the hotly contested district of Buliisa.
The pastoralists who were on the verge of being thrown out of their land on allegations that they migrated from Rwanda, were relieved when the Court of Appeal pronounced its position on Monday sounding a stern warning to a group lobbying for the evacuation of pastoralists from the said district. The group, led by the Ugandan State Minister for Lands, Kasirivu Atwooki, area MP Stephen Mukitale and Gen.
David Tinyefuuza, were told by the court that allegations that the pastoralists are migrants from Rwanda who encroached on the land of indigenous Bagungu are baseless and cannot serve as grounds for the evictions to take place.
Justices George Engwau, Amos Twinomujuni and Edith Bahigeine Mpagi unanimously ruled that evictions be halted with immediate effect, as the pastoralists, commonly referred to as ‘Balaalo’, prepare their defence for a fair hearing yet to be scheduled.
The court went ahead to nullify the April court ruling in which the High Court Judge Akiiki Kiiza ordered the immediate eviction of pastoralists from Buliisa. This was on grounds that the group advocating for the eviction used a wrong procedure to lodge their complaints and as a matter of fact, the March ruling of the High Court still stands.
In March this year, High Court Judge Richard Tabaaro ruled that the pastoralists had no case to answer and should be free from any legal accusations until government investigates the case fully.
The Kiiza ruling had ordered for the eviction of pastoralists from Buliisa and relocating them to a new site in Kyankwanzi, an issue that did not go down well with the pastoral groups.
Court said that the claims that the pastoralists legally bought land from the Bagungu and possess land titles should be investigated first before any action is taken.
Court also dismissed arguments that the pastoralists are Rwandan immigrants, who were flushed out of Northern Tanzania in 2002, pointing out how the Bagungu themselves sold out their land to the pastoralists.
Speaking The New Times in Kampala, the pastoralists’ lawyer, Mukasa Lugalambi, said that the group will not lose the case if correct legal procedures are followed and justice prevails.
Grace Bororoza, the representative of the pastoral groups welcomed the court ruling with joy saying that the justice they sought was long overdue.
“We are going to fight to the last man to retain our land even if it means coming to court everyday,” said Bororoza.
Buliisa District is also home to a highly disputed chunk of land that lies within the prime area with abundant oil deposits yet to be exploited, apparently the reason the pastoralists are in the eye of the storm.