While President Yoweri Museveni, also the Commander in Chief of the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces who is now camped in Eastern and North Eastern region, has hauled in the country’s security apparatus to find lasting solutions to the pockets of insecurity caused by re-emerging cattle rustling threatening to roll-back development in Bugisu, Sebei and Teso sub regions, regional leaders seem to be avoiding ‘the elephant in the room,’ instead urging the President to review the governments cattle compensation programme, expand infrastructure and introduce commercial model farms in the region to grow trade with neighbouring districts and countries including Kenya and South Sudan.
While meeting political leaders and security personnel from the Sebei, Bugisu and Teso sub regions at Kapchorwa State Lodge in Kapchorwa district in Sebei sub region, President Museveni learnt that during the insurgency in north-eastern Uganda nearly 20 years ago, parts of Bugisu and Sebei also lost cattle and need to be compensated.
“Your Excellency Sir, we are very grateful for the compensation of cattle you have done for many of these regions. However, Bugisu region and Sebei were left out on the list of the districts to be compensated, so it’s our request to Your Excellency that Bugisu and Sebei be considered on compensation,” said Hon. Mr Richard Wanda, Member of Parliament for Bunghokho Central County in Mbale who is also the chairperson Bugisu Parliamentary Group.
Museveni pledged government will compensate them like other areas.
UPDF 3rd Division commander Brig General Joseph Balikuddembe
“I will definitely take it up with the government, because I know for sure that they were also raided. Yes, we have been talking about the three areas; Teso, Lango and Acholi, we shall now add Bugisu and Sebei, but not all areas were raided,” Museveni said.
According to leaders in the region, from 1985 to 1990, residents of lower Bulambuli in the sub-counties of Bukhalu, Bunambutye, Bwikhonge, Bunalwere, Nabbongo, Buwanyanga, Muyembe and neighbouring districts of Teso and Sebei were also attacked by Karamojong cattle rustlers.
In March last year, President Museveni launched compensation payments in Soroti for at least 99,000 people in Acholi, Lango, and Teso sub-regions who lost cattle and property between 1986 and 2003. However, according to leaders from Teso, the compensation process has gaps that need to be addressed.
“One of the biggest issues we have now is the issue of communication gap between the Ministry of Justice with the people down. We have feedback from the population that some of them are compensated money as little as seventy thousand (70,000) shillings or even three hundred thousand (300,000) shillings. So, the figures vary and we believe this is something which can be handled,” said Hon Bosco Okiror, MP representing Usuk County in Katakwi district
Vice President Jessica Alupo
In response the Attorney General Kiryowa Kiwanuka assured residents that the process is on and the gaps are being handled. He said although they had little money (only 50 billion shillings) the Ministry wanted to make sure that everyone gets some of that money, but the formula used made a mistake and some people were getting less than one cow.
“But that has been corrected and we are making reports to the Vice President and the Speaker to lay before parliament every two weeks, with the names of the people who have been compensated and the amount of money they have received. We have sent one recently and we have so far sent out 32 billion shillings,” Kiryowa Kiwanuka said.
At the same meeting the UPDF 3rd Division commander Brig General Joseph Balikuddembe gave a report on the progress of their operation to end the threat of re-insurgence of cattle-rustlers in Karamoja Region who have since changed raid tactics in a network that involves criminals with guns, bows and arrows, stick-squads that drive the cows and corroborators (Spy network), leaving a trail of death, rape and destruction and threatening the prevailing peace and security in the region.
Gen Balikuddembe said the re-surgence of cattle rusting in 2019 in Karamoja also affected the nearby sub-regions of Teso, Acholi, Bugisu and Sebei, and prompted UPDF and intelligence organs to launch a disarmament operation code named Usalama Kwa Wote in July 2021 and since then several efforts have been made to recover guns used in cattle rustling.
“A total of 309 guns and 2,592 rounds of ammunition have been recovered so far, while 441 criminals were aligned in court and are serving sentences,” Balikuddembe said.
He added that this was due to enhanced deployment in all the 9 districts of Karamoja with new tactics targeting five (5) groups in these raids; including criminals with guns, those with bows and arrows, those with sticks to drive the cows, the collaborators who are in different districts but connected and linking up with the rustlers and the suspects connected to the raids.
Cattle theft, according to leaders in the three regions, was partly perpetuated by poor infrastructure, specifically security roads which are in bad state hindering smooth security operations. Gen Museveni assured the leaders that these are to be worked on.
”I know all those roads very well. The only problem is that the rains have started, making it difficult to work on them but we are planning on many of these roads. We know them like the Napak-Katakwi-Kaperabyong axis (North south) and those inside Karamoja are all very important, so that vehicles are able to move fast and cut off cattle rustlers,” Museveni said.
On issues to do with development, President Museveni promised to further develop Lwakhakha into a one stop border post linking Uganda to Kenya through Manafwa district to expand business opportunities in the region now that the road connecting to the border has been worked on.
“This will enable some of the traffic going to South Sudan not to go through Malaba and our people will benefit a lot,” Museveni said.
He also reiterated his earlier commitment to set up a demonstration farm in the Sebei region to equip farmers with knowledge on commercial agriculture.
For the Teso sub-region, President Museveni supported the establishment of a cassava-processing factory, which will absorb their excess produce and address market gaps and the enormous products from it.
“First of all, you can get flour for food, that’s what I eat myself, very nice food. You can get industrial alcohol, petrol, we can make industrial starch, animal feeds to support the dairy industry. So, I will definitely work on supporting cassava processing in Teso. That’s what we are doing in Acholi with Mzee Archbishop John Baptist Odama of Gulu Catholic Diocese,” Museveni said.
The rallying point for the Teso farmers is that the sub-region is endowed with plenty of cassava, with each household estimated to have more than three gardens.
“This will be an income earner and shall provide jobs for the youth,” Hon Bosco Okiror said.
On the numerous calls for a regional referral Hospital in the Sebei region, the President stressed that whereas this is critical, there is a need to focus on disease prevention so that people don’t need to get sick to the level of getting admitted in hospitals.
He supported the idea of establishing a public university in Bugisu and Sebei because it is the government’s plan to establish such institutions in all the 16 traditional sub regions of Uganda and some like Teso have already been catered for.
Leaders in Sebei in particular expressed gratitude to His Excellency the President for construction of Teryet High Altitude training facility for athletes in the region and the 12km road linking the centre to Kapchorwa town, which has already been completed.
The other mega project that is nearing completion is the 75km Kapchorwa-Suam road, which begins from Kapchorwa town to Suam at the international border with Kenya.
Mr Museveni said the NRM government is ready to develop the infrastructure provided he is supported on budgeting accompanied with discipline in expenditure.
“I had pushed the budget of the ministry of works and transport to UGX. 6,400 billion, but recently I found out it had gone back to UGX. 4,000 billion. It’s not good. It should be maintained there, then we can cover more of these roads,” Museveni said.
On the issue of inter-district boundary conflicts, President Museveni promised to send the Prime Minister to settle the matters once and for all following the original map of 1962 when Uganda got independence.
He stressed the importance of following the NRM counsel of embracing modern commercial and calculated agriculture according to the four-acre model and reminded the people of the three regions to concentrate on intensive farming with enterprises that have high returns and leave extensive agriculture to farmers with huge chunks of land.
He reminded the people of the region to grow on one acre of land fruits then coffee for those who can grow the crop, then on the third acre grow pasture for zero-grazing and on the fourth acre food crops like cassava.
The meeting was attended by among others; the Vice President Hon Maj Gen (Rtd) Jessica Alupo Epel, Ministers, Members of Parliament, NRM District Chairpersons and LC.5 Chairpersons and religious leaders hailing from Teso, Bugisu and Sebei sub regions.
Museveni’s next stop will be Otuke in Lango region and later to Moroto in Karamoja to further engage leaders in an operation aimed at sweeping out pockets of re-emerging cattle rustling.