In a space of six days, between January 10 and January 16, Lwemiyaga County MP Theodore Ssekikubo was arrested and arraigned in court. Mr Ssekikubo’s woes emanate from a stand he had taken to question a quarantine that government slapped, restricting the slaughter, sale and transportation of cattle in Sembabule District.
The quarantine was announced by the commissioner in charge of animal health amid claims that the foot and mouth disease had broken out in Sembabule, Lyantonde and Gomba in April 2017. The other cattle corridor district of Nakasongola has been under quarantine since about 2014.
Mr Ssekikubo, who accuses security officials in Sembabule of enforcing an unjustifiable quarantine on the sub-counties of Lwemiyaga and Ntuusi, even when they are free from the disease, is accused of defying the quarantine and inciting hundreds of cattle dealers into resisting the blockade on the movement of animals to the cattle market in Lwemiyaga.
Whereas we do not condone Mr Ssekikubo’s alleged actions, he is raising legitimate questions, especially in regard to the sale of animal products such as milk and ghee. For that reason, we ought not to lose sight of what he has to say.
Science proved in 1834 that a human who consumes beef from an animal infected by the food and mouth disease does not get infected, but that one who consumes milk from an infected animal is certain to catch the disease. That fact cannot be lost to officials at the ministry of Agriculture. Why then are they not prohibiting the movement of milk and other animal products?
Loss of money can be quite emotive even more so when it is over a long period such as the duration of that quarantine. That usually translates into the kind of resistance that we are seeing in Sembabule once there is a feeling that the losses are in part due to unfair treatment and seclusion. Such situations call for a response other than the police’s inclination to oscillate between shooting teargas and arresting those who feel aggrieved. Not all situations under the sun are going to be resolved by teargas and incarcerations.
The people of Sembabule need information. They need to know why animals for areas which are not affected by the disease are not allowed into the cattle markets and why the movement of milk has not been barred. Radio stations usually reserve airtime for government agencies to disseminate vital information. The police and ministry of Agriculture need to take advantage of that airtime to clear the air on the quarantine in Sembabule.