Livestock farming in Lamwo District, northern Uganda is being hindered by cattle rustling at porous border points with South Sudan.
The government has been restock ing animals following decades of long insurgencies instigated by the Lord's Resistance Army rebels.
In 2014 for instance, the government through Peace Recovery and Development Plan programme earmarked Shs20 billion to restock the northern region.
The programme was intended to help low income and poverty-stricken homes to improve their livelihood.
However, in Lamwo, which borders South Sudan to the north, cattle rustling carried out by suspected armed South Sudanese rustlers have forced many farmers to abandon livestock farming.
The areas mostly raided are Loremebenge, Goloro, Layamo, Central, Logede, Lopulingi and Ywaya villages, all in Agoro Sub-county and Lutuko, Orobo and Popany villages in Madi Opei Sub-county.
Statistics Daily Monitor obtained from Lamwo leaders indicate a total of 254 goats and 100 cattle have so far been looted since February last year.
Last week, nine animals in Layamokila Village, Ngacino Parish were looted by suspected South Sudanese cattle rustlers.
Local leaders say the latest raid has sparked off fears of insecurity among farmers as the new farming season starts.
Mr Denis Onyon, the Agoro Sub-county chairperson told Daily Monitor at the weekend that the rustlers are suspected to have crossed from Ikotos County in South Sudan. He said they were armed with guns, bows and arrows.
"We informed security personnel who followed the cattle rustlers, they are liaising with the Sudan People's Liberation Army at Loguru Detach in Geria County to follow up the suspects and recover the looted animals," Mr Onyon said.
Call to government
Mr Onyon said the constant invasion by rustlers has deprived livestock farmers' of a better livelihood. He noted the urgent need for government's intervention to address the border insecurity.
"The government should do its best to help farmers against the rustlers. All these things are happening because our border points are insecure," Mr Onyon said.
He further said: "These livestock looted help our farmers in various ways such as opening farmlands and paying school fees for children."
Mr Geoffrey Mwaka, a livestock farmer from Agoro Sub-county, says he decided to relocate with his 20 animals to Lamwo Town Council which is safer.
"I was lucky last year when cattle rustlers attempted to raid my kraal, we made an alarm that attracted residents and security officials. Since then, I decided to relocate to Lamwo Town Council," he said on Monday.
He, however, says the pasture at the place he relocated are not nutritious hence affecting the growth of his animals.
The Lamwo District chairperson, Mr Thomas Ogwok, said cattle rustlers have forced many people to relocate to safer areas thereby abandoning their farms.
"The livelihood of our people is greatly being affected by the constant rustling in the district. The farmers are living in fear because even at their farm or from home, the cattle rustlers attack them," Mr Ogwok said.
He also blamed the government for the laxity in ensuring the porous border points are well guarded.
"There used to be heavy deployment of the Anti -Stock Theft Unit personnel with the UPDF on the border points but they are now very few. These are the reasons why the rustlers are finding it easy to enter the district and attack locals," he said.
Mr Ogwok called on government to carry out an in-depth investigation on the cattle raided.
Two people were shot dead last year in both Madi-opei and Agoro sub-counties by armed rustlers
Nusaf cattle stolen
Mr Isaac Lumago, the acting Lamwo District veterinary officer, said 50 of the cattle stolen were purchased under the Northern Uganda Social Action Fund (NUSAF) phase three last year.
He said through coordination with security personnel in Uganda and South Sudan, 20 animals were recovered and handed back to the beneficiaries in the district.
Lamwo received 555 cattle among them Ankole, Zebu short horned and improved bulls under the cattle restocking project.
The governor of Imatong state in South Sudan, Mr Alberio Tobiolo, could not be reached for a comment as his known mobile phone number was switched off by press time.
The Lamwo Resident District Commissioner, Mr Nabinson Kidega, said they were in the process of adding more security personnel to beef up security at the border points. He said additional forces from the Local Defence Unit would be deployed to help the UPDF.
Mr Julius Mucunguzi, the communication adviser in the Office of the Prime Minister, said it was unfortunate cattle meant to improve the livelihood of the locals are being looted by rustlers.
"It's quite unfortunate to hear this report and it must be addressed. We hope the district security team ensures the livelihood of the people are protected," he said on Tuesday.
Mr Julius Mucunguzi noted that he will cross check with the relevant authorities in the Office of the Prime Minister to find out whether the information of cattle rustling in Lamwo has reached their offices.
The State minister for Northern Uganda, Ms Grace Freedom Kwiyucwiny, could not be reached for a comment on this report as she did not answer our repeated phone calls by press time.
During the celebration to mark 38th Tarehe Sita in Kitgum District this year, President Museveni reiterated commitment to improve border security with South Sudan by deploying more security forces.
Local leaders have also raised complaints of border row at Ngomoromo in Lukung Sub-county where armed South Sudan soldiers invaded the area claiming it belongs to them. More than 20 homes have since fled the area.
Another unresolved row involves a stretch of land in Agoro Sub-county measuring 120 kilometres. It's claimed by South Sudanese officials.
In April last year, heavily armed South Sudan soldiers forcefully halted a road survey in the area accusing Ugandan engineers of crossing into their territory and to date, the road works has stalled.