In Teso, owning cattle symbolises wealth. However, for months now, the region has been experiencing a surge in cattle theft.
Katakwi district chairperson Geoffrey Omolo said the theft is always done at night. He said the suspected thugs seem to be well-to-do people who use residents to steal from their localities.
“They use vehicles, such as Noahs, Pajeros and taxis. With taxis, they remove the seats to enable them transport the cattle easily. That method has enabled them to evade Police along the way,” Omolo said.
“There are reports of continued theft of livestock from the districts of Kumi, Ngora, Pallisa, Bukedea, Katakwi and Serere, among others. Most of the stolen livestock is either sold within Serere district or sneaked out to other markets,” Harriet Nakamya, the Resident District Commissioner (RDC) of Serere, said in a letter calling for an inter-district security committee meeting last week.
“The vice is being spearheaded by suspected armed elements operating within the region and has heavily affected the economic progress of families in the region,” Nakamya added.
A resident of Kyere who was not comfortable revealing his identity is one of those whose livelihood has been severely affected, after losing 15 head of cattle.
“Two more cows were recently stolen and the matter was reported to Police. Suspects were arrested, but later released without being charged in court,” the resident told a security meeting held in Abuket wetland, where people keep their cattle in large numbers.
The chairperson of Omagoro in Kyere sub-county, Michael Okiring, said Nakamya was right about the suspected thugs using firearms.
“That is why victims are afraid to reveal their identities — because the thugs can easily come for them at night,” Okiring said.
It emerged that stolen cattle are slaughtered in hidden places within the villages and the meat taken to trading centres or within towns in Teso.
The people of Serere testified before the security personnel in the meeting that only the beef is displayed, but not the skin or hooves.
It was also alleged that some businessmen operating butcher shops were aware of the thefts, and even the people behind the vice since they buy the stolen animals.
However, police were yet to ascertain the claims, promising to investigate the matter. They also appealed to the people to volunteer information that would lead to the arrest of the thieves.
“Members of the public on many occasions accuse individuals, but when they are brought to police, we find no supporting evidence and, in the end, we release the suspect on bond,” the police spokesman for Kyoga East, Oscar Ageca, said .
The Vice-President, Jessica Alupo, also urged people to start keeping Friesian cows, instead of zebu.
“Friesians do not move fast like the zebu, so cattle raiders cannot take them. Friesians also give more milk to the farmer as compared to zebu,” she said.
Angella Amuge, resident: Cattle theft is giving us sleepless nights. Security forces should intensify their operations because it’s through cattle that we get our livelihood.
Yuventino Opolot, resident: The desire for a high standard of living is what has forced many people, especially the youth, into thefts so that they can buy smart phones and clothes.
Immaculate Aiko: We can also get rid of criminals in towns through installing security cameras that can capture them attacking businesspeople.