Kitgum, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Hundreds of farmers in Kitgum district have abandoned farming and oxen ploughing due to attacks by suspected rustlers.
The affected areas include the sub-counties of Kiteny, Orom, Orom East, Namokora, and Namokora town council. Its population greatly depends on agriculture for food and economical purposes.
According to local leaders, at least 302 herds of cattle and 2,000 goats have been stolen by the South Sudan and Karamojong rustlers between the months of January and April this year. The rustlers have also killed nine people and severely injured eight others.
The insecurity has forced many large farmers in the area who plough in distant isolated places to use oxens, and abandon their activities due to the fear of attacks and losing their animals to the rustlers.
Fifty-two-year-old Simon Peter Luwari, a resident of Labongo Otac village, Gulu Parish, Orom East sub county says his pair of oxen was taken away from him last month by the rustlers while he was using them to plough his garden.
Luwari who is a father to five children says he can longer open up large plots of farmland using rudimentary tools and cannot even risk going into the bush with his remaining bulls.
David Okema, a father of two from Okuti Parish says his family members have abandoned farming following the killing of their uncle by the rustlers last week while in the garden.
Like Okema’s family, hundreds of farmers in the area are living in fear and are now ploughing small plots of land within their homesteads which are also not enough to support their families.
Alfred Okema, the LCIII chairperson of Kiteny sub county says an elderly woman identified as Evelyn Ayaa was last month assaulted to death by the rustlers from her garden prompting fear among the people.
Bruno Nelson, the Orom East Sub County LCIII Chairperson fears that the area might suffer famine if the situation is not addressed swiftly.
Five people were also killed and three critically injured. 1,000 goats and 100 heads of cattle were also stolen by the rustlers in the month of January.
Geoffrey Opyet, the LCIII Chairperson of Namokora Sub County says farmers in the area are incapacitated to purchase farming machines other than oxen which are commonly used. This followed the rustling of sixteen herds of cattle.
Matthew Oloya Oryang, an elder in Lunganuya Parish in Orom Sub County says that the persistent rustling and insecurity has greatly disrupted social, economic and cultural lives in the affected areas.
Albino Ayina, 85, wants the government to urgently address the presence of illegal guns among the rustlers which he says is the biggest attribute of the insecurity.
William Komakech, the Kitgum Resident District Commissioner says the security is aware of the situation and called for vigilance among the people.
Areas astride the Karamoja and South Sudan borders have for many decades been experiencing recurring waves of insecurity by armed cattle rustlers.