Locals aiding Karimojong cattle rustlers, say leaders

This picture taken on April 20, 2023 shows a farmer from Otuke District fleeing with his cattle towards Lira District following large-scale raids by suspected Karamojong warriors. PHOTO/CHARITY AKULLO

What you need to know:

  • Mr Kidega said in a span of one month, nine suspected Karimojong warriors were killed and one gun was recovered.

Unscrupulous  locals are aiding Karimojong rustlers  in eastern and northern Uganda, the authorities in the two regions have said.

Speaking to Monitor, the officials added that some thugs in the regions disguise themselves as Karimojong warriors and steal livestock.

The deputy RDC of Kitgum, Mr Marijan Walire, said: “Sometimes when we try to ambush them, the collaborators tell them ‘don’t pass through that route. Pass through this other one, you will be safe’.” 

During the commissioning of the construction of Omiya Anyima Water Supply System early last month, Mr Walire said:  “The government is doing its best to fight these people.  If you take more than three hours to report, these people are very swift, they can go away.”  

The Kole Resident District Commissioner (RDC), Ms Caroline Angolere, accused sub-county officials and other leaders of involvement  in the vice. 

“At about 6:30pm on January 26, 2022, I was going to the market in Lira when I saw a truck carrying Karamojong branded cows. I picked interest and stopped in front of the truck to understand whether those cows were stolen or not,” she narrated. 

Ms Angolere added: “I asked for a movement permit which was not given. They only gave me a receipt written by the Orom Sub-county chief in Kitgum District and those cows were going to Lira market.” 

In an interview with Monitor last month, the Agago Resident District Commissioner (RDC), Mr Nabinson Kidega, said: “The locals [ rustlers and their collaborators] have now created a business network which they use to access a better market for the stolen animals.”   

Mr Kidega said in a span of one month, nine suspected Karimojong warriors were killed and one gun was recovered.

He commended the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) and other security agencies for their efforts to curb rustling in the area.

Agago District leaders said thugs disguised as Karamojong warriors steal livestock in Otuke, Agago and Abim districts.  

The animals are reportedly  transported to Katakwi District and sold to unsuspecting buyers.  Recently,  security personnel arrested eight men over the same. 

The Agago District Police Commander, Mr Paul Katwesige, yesterday acknowledged that cattle rustling is a big issue in the area but could not confirm the number of people killed and destruction caused since he was out of office.

However, statistics  complied by Agago leaders show that 42 people have been killed and 350 others injured in a span of 18 months by suspected cattle rustlers in the district. 

Statistics from Paimol, Omiyapacwa, Lapono, Lira Kato, Kapelyebyong, Adilang and Wol sub-counties and Adilang Town Council, also show that 18 grass-thatched houses were set ablaze between January 2022 and June 3. 

During the same period, 3,844 goats and 1,851 cattle were stolen in Agago .  

Leaders from Karamoja said the vice has worsened poverty in the sub-region, appealing to the government to find a lasting solution to the crisis. 

Mr Jino Bornd Meri, the Kaabong LC5 chairperson, said cattle rustling has caused food insecurity. 

“Every morning, when I wake up, I find people waiting for me at my gate to give them something to eat because they are hungry. And when I reach my office, l find so many people waiting for me to give them money for buying something to eat,” Mr Meri said during a meeting with the President at Baralegi State Lodge, Otuke District last month. 

Mr Meri added that the cattle rustlers are their Jie neighbours and Turkana nomads from neighbouring Kenya.

“All the animals that have been taken by Turkana have never been recovered,” he said, adding in 2019, Kaabong District had a total of 105,000 animals, and when they conducted the national livestock censor in September 2021, the number had dropped to 33,585. 

“In May this year, the number of cows in Kaabong District dropped to only about 3,000. Most of the animals were looted by the Turkana and taken to Kenya,” the Kaabong LC5 chairperson said. 

Mr Peter Abrahams Lokii, the Jie County MP, said: “In our communities, the elderly people do not sleep in the kraals. So, when cattle thieves come, they tie up the young boys guarding the kraals and just make off with the animals, and in the morning, people find animals missing.” 

According to Mr Lokii, some criminals who escaped from Moroto prison in 2018 are responsible for the insecurity in Karamoja. 

“These are the people that have destabilised Kotido. Some of them have been put out of action. Those who are still alive are the ones you must have heard that are involved in the killing of LCs,” Mr Lokii said. 

“They are involved in killing women, peace committees because they think these are people who report them. We have had the opportunity to get information from them and they are saying they now see death ahead of them,” he added. 

Leaders further asked the government to grant amnesty to the Karamjong warriors who renounce criminal activities, to enable disarmament and pacification of the sub-region to foster development.

President’s response
During a meeting with leaders from Lango and Acholi sub-regions at Baralegi State Lodge in Otuke District on June 11,2022 President Museveni admitted that cattle rustling in northern  and eastern Uganda has been turned into a business involving some leaders. 

“It is commercial now! It is no longer the traditional cattle rustling. It is business. They steal the cows, put them on lorries and sell them in markets,”  he said.

The President said the attacks “will be easy to deal with since the raiders have linked up with business people.” 

“The roads in Karamoja are not many. If you say they are transporting animals on lorries, where do they pass? That means you soldiers are the ones allowing them to pass,” he said. 

Mr Museveni also vowed a ruthless approach in wiping out the criminals.    

“Even if there are suspects in Kenya, we shall work with the Kenyan government and arrest them. The Kenyan government cannot harbour people who are endangering us. Even South Sudan, these are friendly governments. As long as we have got intelligence, we shall go for them together,” he said.