22 herds of cattle have been recovered from suspected South Sudanese rustlers in Lamwo district.
The cattle were recovered on Thursday during a joint manhunt launched by the Local Defense Unit LDU and local leaders, following separate raids in Kiromi village, Okol parish, Madi opei sub-county in Lamwo District on Wednesday night.
Security operatives traced the footmarks of the suspected rustlers forcing them to abandon the cattle and flee, with seven people arrested in connection to the continued theft of cattle in the area.
Area residents say the continued raids by the South Sudanese cattle rustlers is causing security concerns.
“Whenever the rustlers come, the community gets worried and upset. Others also come with guns and since we do not have gun, most of us end up running away. ” said Tonny Opira a resident in the area.
Other areas targeted by the South Sudanese cattle rustlers are; Lawiye Oduny, Okol and Pobura villages in Madi opei town council. Juma Jalleh Abudalah, the LCIII chairperson Madi opei town council, Lamwo District says “We have a strategy that we are yet to share in our security meeting about empowering security personnel at Lagoloki being a bordering parish to most of the parishes. But we continue to encourage cattle owners owners to be on the lookout, once they realize that the cattle rustlers are around the community always give information to the security team. The cattle owners should protect their animals well to avoid the thieves. Meanwhile Nabinson Kidega, the Resident District Commissioner Lamwo said the district is a boarder district experiencing a number of problems.
“Lamwo is one of the Ugandan districts bordering South Sudan from Northern region and yes you should expect so many issues including international insecurity, boarder conflict and cattle rustling. But our ears are on the ground to deter any form of insecurity”.
According to the 2020 police annual crime report, 1768 heads of cattle were stolen but were recovered. The report indicates that 19 people were killed during the incident while 15 sustained serious injuries.
In May this year, residents of Corner Mission Cell in Pager division, Kitgum municipality intercepted a truck transporting suspected stolen cattle from Lamwo district.
According to Atim Agnes Onek, the chairperson of security surveillance for Pager division, the Fuso truck registration number UBF 400C was transporting 22 herds of cattle to Kampala.
“When I was going to town in the morning I found a certain truck packed along Kitgum –Musingu road. The occupants of the truck told me they were transporting their livestock to Kampala for sale, but I later realised that they were actually stolen cattle after I insisted. We intercepted the intercepted the lorry following a tip-off from residents who raised an alarm about the vehicle that was reportedly parked along a community road off the main highway”.
According to William Komakech, the Resident District Commissioner Kitgum, the truck and the cows have since been impounded and the suspects held at Kitgum central police station while investigations were still ongoing.
Komakech says the incident comes following several complaints of an increase in the number of animals stolen from the residents with more than 30 animals reported missing in less than three months.
On September 14 last year, five suspects were charged with cattle theft.
The outcome of a telephone printout and investigation by police later pointed to the fact that the five suspects had been communicating among themselves while plotting how to raid people’s farms and take away the animals to Kampala.
Criminal networks use advanced logistics and market information to inform their illicit activities .The crime is embedded in the wider business of cattle trade.
The raiders exploit weak coordination between security and the veterinary department, who are mandated to monitor the movement of animals in every district.
Livestock is a much sought-after commodity among criminals, especially as the year ends due to high demand for the products during festivities.
For instance, in Acholi sub-region, the number of cases of stolen cattle between October and December 2019, doubled to nearly 460 from 213 cases registered between April and September 2019, according to Aswa River Region police. Although statistics of livestock theft cases for 2020 and 2021 were not yet out by the time of filing this report, police predict that the figures could climb up significantly since the Covid-19 induced lockdown saw a rise in livestock theft.
COVER PHOTO: Cattle being transported for sale. Security authorities are worried of increased theft of livestock in Acholi.