Kampala, Uganda | RONALD MUSOKE | It is early afternoon in Lokitela-ekuam village in Rupa sub-county in Moroto District on July 01 and about 200 villagers are seated under a big umbrella tree, discussing increasing cattle theft and violence in the area. Everyone appears tense, nervous, and agitated.
Every speaker talks tough. They want a return to the peace they have enjoyed for the last 15 years since the government did a major disarmament programme in their community.
Prisca Nakiru is one of only three women at the meeting. As LC III Chairperson of Rupa sub-county, she is unusual in this male-dominated warrior society where might is often equated to right. Standing at about six feet tall and armed with a voice that commands authority, she lays out her plan before the many young men and a few elders.
Nakiru knows about rumours that the government is pondering a second disarmament programme. And she knows most Karimojong dread it. Many have no fond memories of the last disamarment. They say the government soldiers were ruthless.
“If we stop stealing cows, the disarmament will not come back,” she tells the meeting, “If you have a gun, better hand it over peacefully before the security people come to your homes.The animals we raid do not bring any benefits to the community; they only bring curses.”
Stella Atyang, the Woman MP for Moroto District, is the other woman at the meeting. She is softer spoken than Nakiru. But her message is as clear.
“The person who brought back cattle raiding to our region is the real enemy of Karamoja,” she tells the men, “togetherness is what will bring development to the community.”
Following 15years of peace, the Karamoja region in the semi-arid northeastern horn of Uganda is slowly slipping back into its violent and notorious past. The Karimojong are pastoral people but many are now struggling to protect their prized asset: the cattle.
Karamoja, a conglomeration of nine districts, is about 27,511 sq km in size which actually makes it slightly bigger than Rwanda (26,338 sq km). It has a population of about 1.2 million people.
But the sub-region holds about 30% of the country’s livestock wealth including; 20% of the nation’s cattle, 16% of its goats, nearly half of all sheep, over 90% of donkeys and all camels, according to the most recent available statistics from the Uganda Bureau of Statistics which were released in 2009.The livestock; especially cattle is the mainstay of the people.
On a recent visit to the region, The Independent heard tales of desperation from victims of cattle loss. The leaders of the national army (the UPDF) stationed there say they have the situation under control but local leaders and civil society say the cattle thefts are spiraling out of control.
Raiding cattle is an ancient traditional practice in the region, used in the past to acquire cattle for prestige and marrying many women. But the practice has turned into a commercial venture involving businessmen from outside Karamoja.
“The thieves steal these animals and move them at night and sell them for as low as Shs 200,000. The cows are taken to Kampala and Mbale but the biggest number are taken to South Sudan,” says Peter Abrahams Loki, the MP for Kotido Municipality.
Loki says Karamoja has been suffering since the government pulled UPDF personnel from the region and took them to Somalia. He says a vacuum was created that the cattle entrepreneurs exploited and people began re-armament.
“From the use of bows and arrows to steal one or two cows, gunshots began reverberating in the region and the thieves are taking away thousands of cattle,” Loki told The Independent.
MP Atyang told The Independent that what is going on is not petty cattle theft, although some people prefer to call it that.
“These are raids because a massive number of animals are involved,” she said.
“A village that loses 700 cows in one swoop loses about Shs 1.5 billion; people are losing a lot of money in these ongoing cattle raids,” says Simon Peter Longoli, the executive director of the Karamoja Development Forum, an indigenous non-profit that is building capacity to protect pastoralist rights in the region.
“These raids are subjecting people who are already vulnerable to more decades of poverty,” he told The Independent in an interview.
“From the stories we are gathering, the violence is getting back to the pre-disarmament days,” he said. He was referring to a ten-year disarmament programme that ran between 2001 and 2010.
The disarmament programme saw the UPDF rid Karamoja of over 40,000 illegal arms, bringing an end to armed cattle rustling. But Karamoja’s vast landscape and sparse population coupled with porous international borders with Kenya and South Sudan have seen Karimojong warriors get rearmed.
Original Post: The independent
Report links 1,600 deaths to pesticide poisoning
A total of 1,599 deaths between 2017 and 2022 were linked to organophosphate (pesticide) poisoning, researchers from Uganda National Institute of Public Health (UNIPH) and the Health ministry found.This information is in one of the reports presented yesterday during the 9th National Field Epidemiology Conference in Kampala.
The study led by Mr Robert Zavuga was based on the data from the District Health Information System (of the Health ministry), which is received from health facilities across the country.“A total of 37,883 (average of 6,314 per year) organophosphate (OP) [health facility] admissions and 1,599 (average of 267 per year) deaths were reported,” the report reads.
OP admission was defined by researchers as a hospital stay due to suspected OP poisoning. In contrast, OP poisoning death was defined as inpatient death with OP poisoning listed as the cause of death.The researchers linked the poisoning to the widespread use of OP pesticides by farmers in the country amid limited knowledge of how to use the pesticides safely.
“Uganda has an agricultural-based economy with widespread use of organophosphate-based pesticides. This elevates the risk for OP poisoning in the population,” the report reads further.According to the report, the overall average incidence was 15 organophosphate admissions per 100,000 persons.
On areas, sex and age that are most affected, the report indicates, “residents of Ankole Sub-region were more affected while those in Lango Sub-region were least affected.”“Males had a higher incidence of organophosphate poisoning than females. Children under 5 years had a higher incidence than persons above 5 years (20 vs 14/100,000),” the report said.
Overall, 1,599 (average of 267 per year) deaths were reported between 2017 and 2022. Residents in Kampala had the highest overall case fatality rate (CFR) while those in Teso had the lowest (CFR: 8.5 percent vs 2.2 percent),” the report reads.
According to the report released yesterday, “there was more than 3-fold decline in incidence of OP poisoning admissions per 100,000 population from 2017-2022,” however, the researchers noted, “there was no significant change in the case fatality rate of organophosphate poisoning.”
“The incidence of organophosphate poisoning admissions declined throughout the study period. Since 2014, Uganda has implemented periodic public awareness campaigns about safe use of pesticides for small-holder farmers and pesticide dealers,” the report says.
“These campaigns have included sensitisation about responsible handling to reduce risk of poisoning and environmental pollution.
Additional campaigns targeting government pesticide regulators, non-governmental organisations, and media have also been implemented to address the dangers of organophosphate poisoning,” it adds.
The report says Uganda has also implemented the Agricultural Chemical Control Act to use less toxic pesticides, which may be contributing to the reduction in organophosphate poisonings.“To continue this decline, it is important to monitor and strengthen these interventions,” the researchers from UNIPH and Health ministry recommended.
Statement: The Energy Sector Strategy 2024–2028 Must Mark the End of the EBRD’s Support to Fossil Fuels
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is due to publish a new Energy Sector Strategy before the end of 2023. A total of 130 civil society organizations from over 40 countries have released a statement calling on the EBRD to end finance for all fossil fuels, including gas.
From 2018 to 2021, the EBRD invested EUR 2.9 billion in the fossil energy sector, with the majority of this support going to gas. This makes it the third biggest funder of fossil fuels among all multilateral development banks, behind the World Bank Group and the Islamic Development Bank.
The EBRD has already excluded coal and upstream oil and gas fields from its financing. The draft Energy Sector Strategy further excludes oil transportation and oil-fired electricity generation. However, the draft strategy would continue to allow some investment in new fossil gas pipelines and other transportation infrastructure, as well as gas power generation and heating.
In the statement, the civil society organizations point out that any new support to gas risks locking in outdated energy infrastructure in places that need investments in clean energy the most. At the same time, they highlight, ending support to fossil gas is necessary, not only for climate security, but also for ensuring energy security, since continued investment in gas exposes countries of operation to high and volatile energy prices that can have a severe impact on their ability to reach development targets. Moreover, they underscore that supporting new gas transportation infrastructure is not a solution to the current energy crisis, given that new infrastructure would not come online for several years, well after the crisis has passed.
The signatories of the statement call on the EBRD to amend the Energy Sector Strategy to
- fully exclude new investments in midstream and downstream gas projects;
- avoid loopholes involving the use of unproven or uneconomic technologies, as well as aspirational but meaningless mitigation measures such as “CCS-readiness”; and
- strengthen the requirements for financial intermediaries where the intended nature of the sub-transactions is not known to exclude fossil fuel finance across the entire value chain.
Download the statement: https://www.iisd.org/system/files/2023-09/ngo-statement-on-energy-sector-strategy-2024-2028.pdf
Kigezi In Famine Scare After Drought Hits The Region
Farmers in Rubanda district are living in fear that they may be hit by famine due to the prolonged drought that has greatly affected the area. This comes after the area was hit by heavy rains in the month of May 2023, which left most of the gardens washed away, and since then the dry season has started up to date.
This is the first of its kind for Rubanda district and Kigezi at large to undergo such a prolonged drought.
According to farmers, this is the first of its kind for Rubanda to go through a long drought, adding that they are in fear that they may be hit by famine since they were used to receiving rains at the beginning of August, which is not the case this year. They add that even the seedlings that they had planted excepting that the rains would come have all dried up by the long spell.
Farmers also say that they don’t know what could be the cause that has stopped the rains,adding that the government should come up with a program that provides them with seedlings.
Akampurira Prossy Mbabazi, a woman Member of Parliament for Rubanda District, says that the issue of drought is not only in Rubanda District; however, this is the first of its kind. She adds that the drought comes after the area was hit by heavy rains, which caused a lot of challenges, adding that now it is the drought that may affect the farmers.
Akampurira further says that, as a leader,she will continue to educate farmers on better methods of farming depending on climate change.
Kikafunda Evelyne, founder of Green Environment Promotion (GEP), says it’s sad that farmers in Rubanda district and Kigezi at large are experiencing a long drought. She attributes it to problems of environmental degradation that include swamps being reclaimed, deforestation, and plastic pollution, adding that this is an indication that people don’t mind about the environment.
Kikafunda calls upon all people to take part in protecting the environment, adding that environmentalists should devise means on how to protect the environment.
It’s now been four months since it last rained in the districts of greater Kabale, that is, Rubanda, Kabale, and Rukiga districts, as well as other parts of the Kigezi Subregion.
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