Cattle raids in Lango, Karamoja blamed on Moroto prison break

UPDF soldiers guard one of the protected kraals near Nakapelimoru barracks in Kotido District on July 3 last year. About 7,000 heads of cattle are kept at the facility. PHOTO/FRED WAMBEDE.

What you need to know:

  • Karamoja is a semi-arid pastoralist region with a history of cattle rustling and gun violence. 

Karamoja and Lango residents have raised concern over the rampant cases of cattle raids and gun violence in the region, blaming it on inmates who escaped from Moroto prison in September last year. 
More than 200 prisoners escaped from the prison located on the foothills of Mt Moroto in Moroto District. 
The escapees reportedly made off with 15 guns, 15 magazines and 480 bullets. 
Ever since the incident, cases of cattle rustling and gun violence have increased in Karamoja and Lango sub-regions.
On January 31, a group of 30 rustlers armed with rifles reportedly attacked the home of Mr Samuel Lemukol in Ngoleriet Sub-county in Moroto District and stole more than 30 goats. 
The armed rustlers also shot dead 38-year old Benjamin Lomongin, the Parish chief of Iriiri in Ngoleriet Sub-county.  
 On January 1, a group of rustlers armed with rifles also raided Pupu Village in Moroto District and took 100 heads of cattle and goats. 
 On February 3, police said unknown gunmen shot dead Francis Eriaku, a resident of Katanga Village, Naitakwae Parish, Nadunget Sub-county in Moroto District. 
The victim was shot at the door of a video hall before the gunmen took off with a flat-screen TV, which was in the hall.
Police said the gunmen were from the communities of Jie in Kotido and Bokora in Napak districts. 
 South Karamoja police spokesperson Michael Longole said the trend of killings by shooting and cattle raids started increasing in the districts of Napak and Moroto after the prison break. 
 “The trend in murder by shooting is increasing in Napak District right from the prison break to date, especially in areas of Lotome, Lopeei, Ngoleriet, Lokopo, and Matany,” he told Daily Monitor in a telephone interview on Monday. 
 “It intensified around the festive season. From December 24 last year to date, it doesn’t take two days without either a report of a raid or killing by shooting,” he added. 
 Mr Longole said more than 20 people have been killed since December last year. 
He said the attackers target areas where animals are not kept in protected kraals. 
 “They (gunmen) first shoot the person grazing the animals before taking them,” the police spokesperson added. 
“We have intensified our security.  Our people are not taking our calls to put their animals in those protected kraals seriously but we have started to sensitise them on the importance of those kraals.” 
The said protected kraals are guarded by the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) soldiers and police officers. 
Mr Longole, however, said the local communities prefer to keep their animals at home to avoid paying the monthly Shs20,000 charged by the security forces at the protected kraals. 
However, Mr Julius Locheng Lotyakatau, the Kotido District speaker, said security personnel have not been doing enough to recover stolen cattle. 
In Otuke, nine suspected Karimojong rustlers were shot dead last month. 
Mr Peter Okweda, the Ogor Sub-county chairperson, said they have not registered a new case of cattle raid for the past two weeks. 
 “We have been empowering our community members with non-violent ways of chasing them (rustlers). What we do is mobilise the communities to make alarm whenever they see the rustlers and that has been very effective to chase them away from my sub-county,” he said. 
 Mr Christopher Omara, the Otuke Resident District Commissioner, said heavy deployment of security forces in the district has prevented the cattle raiders from entering the district. 
“We have deployed the ASTU (Anti-Stock Theft Unit personnel) and other sister security agencies in all the high risk sub-counties in the district. For the past two weeks, we have not had any incident of those warriors coming here in Otuke,” he said. 

Background...Cattle raids in Karamoja
Karamoja is a semi-arid pastoralist region with a history of cattle rustling and gun violence. 
Even after the government disarmament programme in the early 2000s to remove guns from the hands of civilians, sporadic clashes between different communities continue. The recent wave of cattle rustling have also spread to the districts of Otuke and Alebtong in Lango Sub-region.