Katakwi district leaders on the spotlight over illegal operation of livestock loading site

KATAKWI – The Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industries and Fisheries has directed the leadership of Katakwi district to stop the illegal operations of Apolin livestock loading site with immediate effect to contain further spread of foot and mouth disease.

This follows defiance by the cattle traders as they continue transacting business and loading livestock in the said site despite restrictions by the Ministry.

In August, this year, the Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industries and Fisheries imposed partial livestock quarantine in Katakwi district following the outbreak of foot and mouth disease in five sub-counties.

The sub-counties that were put under quarantine according to the Ministry are; Kapujan, Katakwi, Getom, Akoboi and Akulonyo.

According to a letter dated 20th August, 2021 and signed by Dr. Doris Kiconco on behalf of the Commissioner, Animal Health in the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, all the surrounding areas within the radius of 20km are also affected.

“Consequently, the movement of cattle, goats, sheep and pigs; beef, milk and other animal products and by-products from, to, through and within the quarantine area is prohibited with immediate effect,” part of the letter reads.

The Ministry also banned the sale and purchase of cattle, goats, sheep and pigs and their products in the quarantine areas as a measure to contain the disease.

The disease that was first reported in the districts of Kapelebyong, Serere, Soroti and Kaberemaido in Teso sub-region region and Kotido, Abim, Napak in Karamoja sub-region among others has left 100 animals dead in the affected areas in a period of three months.

Despite the ban on livestock markets and loading sites, Apolin livestock loading site located at Katakwi sub-county which is one of the areas under quarantine has continued operating at the watch of the district leaders.

Sources close to the site accuse the district leaders following failure to enforce the livestock quarantine by allowing livestock trade to take place in the area.

They claim that the district leaders extort bribes from the livestock traders so as to allow them to continue loading animals in the loading site despite the restrictions.

This has prompted the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industries and Fisheries to intervene and stop the operation of the said livestock loading site.

In a letter authored on 20th of October, 2021 and signed by Zonal Veterinary Inspector North-East Uganda, Dr. Robert Ojala, on behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries and addressed to the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) which theCooperator has obtained a copy, Katakwi district leadership is directed to seal off Apolin livestock loading site as soon as possible.

“I do write to your office over the illegal operation of Apolin livestock loading site, following an outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease reported on 1st August, 2021, quarantine restrictions were imposed in the sub-counties of Kapujan, Getomi, Katakwi and Okulonyo as per the quarantine restrictions letter of 20th August, 2021″, the letter reads in part.

According to Dr. Ojala, Apolin livestock loading site lies within the areas under restrictions and allowing it to operate is a breach of the Animal diseases Act Chap 38.

“The livestock markets, livestock loading sites, slaughter places including butchers, animal shows, movement of cattle, goats, sheep, pigs, their products and by-products from to, through and within the affected areas are prohibited until further notice,” said Dr. Ojala.

The local government administrators who include the Resident District Commissioner (RDC), District Police Commander (DPC), District Internal Security Officer (DISO), District Veterinary Officer (DVO), Chiefs, and Enforcement Officers are directed to enforce quarantine restrictions as per the Veterinary Technical Manual for the control of movement of animals and animal products in Uganda Chapter 7, section 7.2 and Chapter 6.

Meanwhile, John Stephen Ekoom, the Resident District Commissioner (RDC), Katakwi blames the politicians for frustrating efforts of the police in enforcing the livestock quarantine in the affected areas.

“Some of the political leaders are encouraging members of the public to oppose the quarantine imposed by the government following an outbreak of Foot-and-Mouth-Disease because they want to gain cheap popularity,” Ekoom claimed.

Ekoom who also doubles as the Chairperson Katakwi district Security Committee said, his office is going to be at the forefront in enforcing the directives of the Ministry being the representative of the president in the district.

He warned that anybody found transacting livestock business in the areas under livestock quarantine shall be arrested and arraigned in the courts of law for disobeying government directives.

Section 7 and Section 29 of Animal Diseases [Amendment] Act 2005 states that no person shall remove from a place of quarantine any animal, carcass, fodder, wool, butter, ghee or dung except with the sanction of the inspecting officer.

A person who contravenes such rules is liable to a fine not exceeding Shs.100,000 or imprisonment for a period not exceeding a month or both.

But Geoffrey Omolo, the Katakwi LCV Chairperson refutes the allegations labelled against the political wing and accused the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries of failing to employ preventive measures.

“There is a serious weakness in the line ministry because they are aware of the source of FMD , but instead of establishing an isolation centre or a holding ground at the border between Teso and Karamoja livestock can be done before allowing them to enter districts in Teso, they are emphasizing on vaccination which is costly,” he said.

This is not the first time Katakwi district is put under partial livestock quarantine. In 2019, the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries imposed quarantine in the sub-counties of Ngariam and Palama which border Napak, and Abim districts in Karamoja sub-region due to foot and mouth disease outbreak.

It was then lifted in September, 2021, after the livestock in the affected area, a total of 5000 heads of cattle were vaccinated against the disease.

Meanwhile, Dr. Ariko Onyait, the Katakwi District Veterinary Officer blamed the fast spread of the disease on quark veterinary doctors and also the traders who smuggle sick animals and take them to areas that do not have the disease.

According to Dr. Onyait, they are doing everything possible to save the livestock in the district.

“Following the letter from the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, we have embarked on sensitizing farmers on the disease control measures,” he said.

Apart from Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak, Dr. Onyait, also said Katakwi district is currently struggling to manage other different diseases that include; the Contagious Bovine Pleuropneumonia, Lumpy Skin disease, Anaplasmosis and Black Quarter.

He therefore, challenged the public to respect the imposed quarantine, as they wait for government intervention.

History of Foot and Mouth Disease in Uganda.

The first FMD outbreak in Uganda was recorded in 1953. Since then, the outbreaks occur annually.
In 2014, FMD hit about 30 districts across the country and the government imposed quarantine on the sale of beef and other dairy products. The quarantine was lifted six months later.

The disease struck again last year and several livestock farmers in the cattle corridor districts lost a number of animals.


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