Some of the MPs from Teso and Karamoja while at Parliament

Legislators from the Karamoja sub-region have accused the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) of refusing to hand over 17,706 head of cattle that they recovered from rustlers.

The lawmakers made the accusations while responding to an earlier statement by the UPDF that the security situation in the region was ‘under control.’ The area which is inhabited by nomadic pastoralists has for decades suffered violence stemming from livestock raids between the different communities within Karamoja and across the border in Kenya.

According to the communique by Army Spokesman Brigadier Felix Kulayigye, up to 309 warriors have been killed, and another 1,792 arrested since July 2021. In the same period, the army has recovered 184 guns with 2,352 rounds of ammunition, as well as 17,186 livestock. He said that the deaths resulted from a push to quell violence by cattle rustlers.

“The UPDF, working with other sister security agencies … will continue working together to completely pacify Karamoja and end all the criminality in the sub-region,” Kulayigye said in a statement late on Tuesday.

 But the Karamoja lawmakers ‘rubbished’ the statement saying the Army always wants to paint a picture of success in Karamoja. They also accused the Army of commercializing cattle rustling in the region, saying officers tasked with securing the lives and property of the Karamojong have become perpetrators of the crisis.

The Chairperson of the Karamoja Parliamentary Caucus Remigio Achia castigated UPDF for criminalising the entire region, saying such an attitude has led to the loss of over 3,000 law-abiding citizens and thousands of children forced into destitution in the streets or urban centres.

The MPs added that whereas there are claims by the security forces that they recovered 17,706 head of cattle, the livestock has never been handed over to the owners, and most of the animals recovered from raids have disappeared under the watch of UPDF.

His counterpart Bishop Patrick Okabe, the Teso Parliamentary Group Chairperson also accused the UPDF Commanders of superintending over people’s security in the region to extort money from residents whose livestock has been raided.

Okabe cited several sub-counties in Katakwi District such as Toroma, Ngariam, and Usuk among others where livestock have been raided and demanded that the government compensates the families that have suffered the losses.

The MPs implored UPDF to stop wanton violence in the region and demanded a meeting with President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni to sanction an audit into the UPDF intervention in Karamoja that has spiralled under the army’s watch.

But Kulayigye said that the accusations are all baseless He questioned why the Karamoja MPs were not specific on areas in which the cattle were stolen.

“I can’t refute what they are saying but it would be good for them to name the particular area in which the cattle were not returned to the owners instead of making a blanket statement, it is not accurate”, Kulayigye said.

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