The government should robustly move in to sort out quarrels over ban of movement of cattle in Sembabule District. The restriction results from an outbreak of foot and mouth disease (FMD). But the wrangle is getting uglier and has taken on political overtones and headed for worse, if not stopped now. Last Friday, the dustup ended in the arrest of Lwemiyaga County MP Theodore Ssekikubo.
The authorities alleged that the MP mobilised residents to defy the quarantine, pushed for re-opening of livestock markets, and incited violence against law enforcers. He was later charged with an earlier and unrelated offences.
No doubt, quarantines should be enforced, FMD controlled, cattle movement allowed, people permitted to slaughter livestock, earn money and meet their basic needs. We also know that the viral disease is highly contagious and affects cattle, pigs, sheep, and goats, which are essential for food and income.
But for the past two years, 50 districts have been struggling with FMD and unending restrictions on slaughter, sale and movement of cattle. This has disrupted livestock business, yet it is the people’s main occupation, means of livelihood, and source of income.
For Sembabule, the people haven’t been helped out, despite petitions, including to area MPs. Now, Mr Ssekikubo and some herdsmen believe parts of Sembabule, including Lwemiyaga, were unfairly placed under quarantine, yet there are no cases of FMD reported there. They accuse some big politicians and business associates of creating the chaos in order to control the cattle markets and profiteer.
Regrettably, for two years running, nothing has been done for Sembabule, yet there have been quarantine after quarantine. This is why the arrest of Mr Ssekikubo is not a durable solution to the problem.
Mr Ssekikubo is only amplifying the cries of his frustrated constituents, who cannot move, slaughter or sell their animals, and earn to meet basic needs and send back children to school.
But what the government needs is to address the problem of FMD so that wananchi get their lives back on track. This situation demands that government moves in to quickly sort out the FMD menace ravaging the area and creating tension.
Short of this, more confusion will ensue and restrictions violated, resulting in more spread of the disease, which will kill off cattle, pigs, sheep, and goats and also pose danger to the health of people who consume the animal products.
Going forward, the government should not hide behind high costs of FMD vaccination. Rather, the huge livestock numbers of 40 million, including 14 million cattle, 16.3 million goats, 4.5 million sheep, and 4.2 million pigs should be enough incentive to financing vaccination to rid the country of FMD.