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Karamoja leaders want dialogue on cattle recovery program

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Local leaders in Karamoja are calling for dialogue with the Uganda People Defense Forces-UPDF leadership on the procedure of handing over recovered cattle to the rightful owners in the ongoing recovery program.

Currently, the army under the leadership of Gen. Andrew Gutti, the chairman of the UPDF General Court Martial is involved in an operation to recover and hand over stolen cattle as a way of addressing the long-standing conflicts among the Karamojong resulting from cattle thefts and raids.

The operation involves systematic collection of stolen cattle, sub-county by sub county and district by district. The plan was recommended by the UPDF and district security teams without the wider involvement of political leaders and the general public.

Now, the leaders want a dialogue before the exercise is completed following complaints from some cattle keepers that their animals were wrongly impounded and handed over to bogus claimants.

Moroto district LC V chairperson, Andrew Napaja says that he has requested for a meeting with Gen. Gutti to discuss how the operation should be successfully implemented without causing more harm.

Kaabong district LC V chairperson, Mark Abuku also says there was no wide consultation with the public on how best the catttle recovery program should be implemented.

He said there were a lot of complaints about proof of ownership of the contested livestock because of the current set up.

He explained that anyone is capable of claiming cows with different branding as long as there is no clear mechanism to prove ownership.

In Karamoja, cows are branded according to clans and family. However, the farmers say part of their herds could have different branding. They cited animals bought from the open markets, gifts from friends and relatives.

Under the current arrangement, people who have lost cattle in the last few years are allowed to claim any animals impounded by the UPDF. However, Abuku says there is no clear cut justice.

Rafael Sagal, a member of the Kotido district Peace Committee says there is risk of losing the livestock with different branding even though one is the rightful owner.

So far, UPDF has conducted operations in Moroto and Napak districts and hopes to extend it to all the nine districts of Karamoja.

At least 2000 heads of cattle have been handed to the claimants since the operation was launched in November.

Major Peter Mugisa, the 3rd division spokesman declined to comment on the issue when contacted by our reporter.

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