Agago, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | There is panic among livestock farmers and residents of Agago district in areas bordering the Karamoja region over the fresh influx of suspected cattle rustlers. According to local leaders, the suspected rustlers began entering the border areas two weeks ago while fleeing from the ongoing disarmament exercise in the Karamoja region. The suspected rustlers are reportedly hiding in Lapono, Adilang and Lira Kato sub-counties.
The army and police intensified the disarmament exercise in Karamoja region in July this year following a resurgence of armed cattle raids and gun violence. Leonard Ojok Opio, the Agago District Chairperson told Uganda Radio Network in an interview that they have received reliable information about the undisclosed number of suspected rustlers who have invaded the eastern part of Lapono sub-county.
He says the suspects are part of the group of thugs believed to be fleeing away from the heightened operations mounted by both the UPDF and police in Karamoja aimed at disarming rustlers. “We were informed by security about the intrusion of the rustlers in Eastern Lapono sub county. I don’t have the mandate to speak out on matters of security,” he said.
Opio however notes that there were still no reports of cattle theft or attack on locals resulting from the influx of the suspected rustlers but advised locals to remain vigilant. He says such influx has happened before, saying that sometimes the rustlers spend more than one or two weeks within the community before striking.
The Fifth Infantry Division Commander, Brig. William Bainomugisha said that he wasn’t aware of the reported entry of rustlers in Agago running away from the ongoing operations in Karamoja. He however says in any case if the rustlers sneak across the border, they would be repulsed with force due to the heavy deployment of UPDF soldiers along the Agago, Karamoja border.
“We have a big capacity to get them there and then. We have many soldiers deployed along the borderline and the community is in touch with us,” Brig Bainomugisha told URN in a telephone interview on Tuesday. Mohammed Okwir, the Adilang sub-county chairperson says that locals in his area have been informed to remain extra vigilant and report any suspicious individuals in a bid to avert attacks and cattle theft.
Since last year, the army has intensified security deployment along the porous borders of Agago with Karenga, Kotido and Abim districts, all in the Karamoja region following cases of cattle theft by armed rustlers. It’s estimated that more than 200 cattle were looted by suspected rustlers in Omiya Pachwa, Lapono, Adilang and Paimol sub-counties between January and June this year.