Kampala – The Uganda Human Rights Commission has urged President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni to take action on the issue of the law that punishes those who continue to use harsh words against fellow citizens and have now started to discriminate against certain ethnic groups.
The request was made by Mariam Wangadya; the Commission’s chairperson, while speaking to journalists from the Commission’s head offices in Kampala on Thursday.
“I also want to remind the country that sectarianism is a crime under section 41 of the Penal Code Act, and I want to request the police and the office of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) to start enforcing this law immediately,” said Wangadya.
She also underscored the need for all organs of the state to pronounce themselves on their stand on hate speech because according to her, it is on the upward spiral and it is frightening for the country as a whole.
Relatedly, the Commission has summoned Kilak South Member of Parliament Gilbert Olanya for alleged hateful speech intended to incite violence against the Balaalo community in the Acholi Sub-region.
In a video that went viral more than a week back, Olanya while meeting some Acholi community members is said to have incited them against the herdsmen who are said to have taken over their land in Acholi.
The Chairperson of UHRC Mariam Wangadya told journalists that in the video, the MP said the Balaalo must go, leave Acholi land, and that the people of Acholi should rise and chase Balaalo (pastoralists) off their land.
“Never be timid. Timidity and stupidity are not needed,” Olanya is said to have stated in the Acholi language as he also launched a movement dubbed “Chase Balaalo away from the Acholi land”.
Wangadya who read from an English translation of Olanya’s statements said the MP’s acts were divisive, sectarian, discriminatory, unlawful, and tantamount to hate speech against the Balaalo.
The MP was expected to appear before the commission on Tuesday but he requested to appear on Thursday at 10am. However, when Olanya did not appear more than one and a half hours after the agreed time, Wangadya addressed the press and summoned the MP to appear before the commission on Monday 6th November 2023.
Olanya who spoke to the media after summons were issued to him said that the call he made to the Acholi people was only a re-echoing of President Museveni’s order to have Balaalo evicted.
Wangadya says that every Uganda has a right to live in an area of their choice across the country. She said that the Balaalo, just like other members of the community, should enjoy this freedom provided they live there legally and that they occupy the land formally.
Who are the Balaalo?
Balaalo are a group of nomadic herdsmen majorly from the Ankole Sub-region who move from place to place looking for pasture for their cattle. With climate change and its adverse effects hitting the Ankole-Masaka cattle corridor, the herdsmen have been forced to move to northern Uganda, with fertile land rich with green pastures.
However, this has come at a cost whereby the locals have blamed the herdsmen over and again for a litany of ‘sins’ including land grabbing, impregnating teenage girls and abandoning them, their cattle wandering into people’s farms and destroying food crops among others.
It remains to be seen if the executive order will be enforced at the end of the twenty days, because according to information reaching our news desk, this issue is being politicized and yet the grass root people are the ones who bear the brunt of the overstay of the herdsmen.
One may ask, aren’t there other alternatives to nomadic pastoralism in this day and age, or there is more than meets the eye here?
The land laws of the country allows anyone to purchase land in any part of the country but this should be done with respect of indigenous people found on the land.