Kapelebyong, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Cattle traders in Kapelebyong are decrying losses resulting from the operations by the Uganda Peoples Defense Force- UPDF in Karamoja region.
The traders say that they have lost more than 200 million Shillings over the last three months as the army intensified its operations in Karamoja. The losses are incurred when security operatives impound animals sold by Karimojong traders to the traders in Teso Sub Region.
Tom Okello, a cattle trader from Obalanga Sub County says that there are syndicate operations along the Karamoja-Teso border that started in February when the Anti Stock Theft Unit- ASTU personnel intercepted a full truck of cattle from Moroto at Apeitolim in Napak district. Since then, many other operations have continued to target cattle traders as they return from Karamoja with cattle bought from the cattle markets.
According to Okello, traders in Karamoja organize animals for sale and call their counterparts in Teso Teso to buy them. But after the cattle have been loaded on trucks, the same traders, with the influence from local leaders in Karamoja call the UPDF indicating that Teso traders have stolen cattle. In the process, the vehicles are intercepted and impounded.
Amos Elasu, a culprit in the ongoing security operations says he lost 23 head of cattle bought from Lokitelebu and Panyangara cattle markets in Kotido on May 17, 2020, when he was intercepted by the UPDF soldiers on his way to Moroto. He says within just a day, he lost 25.9 million Shillings.
Elasu explains that after the arrest, he was paraded before the Grade One Magistrate Court in Kotido where he was charged with violation of Presidential Guidelines on COVID-19, transporting animals in a quarantine area and transporting animals without a license. He was sentenced to 17-years in prison or a fine of 450,000 Shillings and opted for the fine.
“I was later told that the cattle had been forfeited to the government but to my surprise, only 14 cattle were auctioned. The nine cattle remained and were eaten by soldiers at Nakapelimoru Brigade Headquarters”, he said.
Maj. Peter Mugisa, the 3rd Division Spokesman dismissed claims of connivance by the security teams to rob traders. He instead said that some of the businessmen are encouraging cattle theft in the region by swiftly buying off stolen animals from Karamoja.
Jorem Peter Okotum, the District Councilor in Acowa Sub County says the situation needs urgent government intervention. He told URN that the situation has rendered many businessmen helpless after losing their capital in operations.
The army and the local leaders have been pointing to the cattle traders for allegedly encouraging cattle thefts in Karamoja.