By Max Patrick Ocaido
Cattle rustling in some parts of Northern Uganda by Karamojong people has resumed several years after government with the help of the national army-UPDF fought the vice.
For a couple of weeks now, Karamojong cattle rustlers have raided Orom sub-county in Chua constituency, Kitgum district where they have looted over 100 heads of cattle in different kraals with the latest attack being on Monday, where the cattle rustlers armed with clubs and spears attacked Lokipawa Village and fled with over 45 heads of cattle.
In other separate raids, the cattle rustlers fled with over 20 heads of cattle in Agoromin village and 17 cows in Lunganyura village all belonging to one person.
According to Michael Obina, a retired headteacher and a resident in Orom, who lost 8 heads of cattle in the Monday raid, his cows were ambushed in the evening while grazing. “These cattle rustlers are very many in the locality and move in groups of 2 to 3. They ambushed the cows forcing the boy who was grazing to take off. They then fled with about 8 cows,” Obina said.
He said that they were quick to contact security personnel in the district of Kaabong who intercepted them forcing them to abandon the loot.
“Out of the 8 cows, only 2 have been recovered but I am hopeful the other 6 will also be got because eyewitnesses told us that they did not see them (Karamojongs) cross with the cows, so it means they abandoned them somewhere in the bushes,” Obina added.
He appealed to the government to equip the Anti-Stock Theft Unit (ASTU)to deal with such insecurity. “I went to the station and found only two ASTU officers who did not even have transport to help trace the cattle rustlers. I had to hire a motorcycle. So I appeal to government to avail more soldiers in the barracks and facilitate them,” he said.
Whereas, most of the Karamojong cattle rustlers are armed with bows, arrows and spears, Obina told the Kampala Post that there is fear some of them could be armed with guns.
“The boy (cattle keeper) told us that he was ambushed by 3 Karamojongs; two of which had bows and arrows, but there was one who remained on the ground. He could have been armed (with a gun),” Obina said.
It should be remembered that President Museveni officially launched the disarmament programme in Karamoja in 2002 and after over a decade in the recovery process spearheaded by UPDF, over 28,000 guns were recovered.
After the disarmament process, ASTU was founded and carved from Field Force unit with a mandate to prevent theft of cattle and currently their headquarters are in Karamoja. Efforts to contact the Resident District Commissioner of Kitgum, Christopher Omara, on phone were futile.
Mr Omara has reportedly visited Orom Sub County to access the situation.
The UPDF Spokesperson Brig. Richard Karemire aligned the raids to the current harsh weather in Karamoja which is forcing the Karamojong into cattle rustling.
“It is not that cattle rustling is resuming. These random attacks will stabilize with weather. UPDF has always been ready to stop the raids and in case some of them are still armed then we shall disarm them,” Brig. Karemire said.