Commandants Research Paper

Topics: Cattle, Cattle raiding, Pasture Pages: 16 (4939 words) Published: December 12, 2010

Mar 06


1. Cattle rustling is “the stealing of grazing cattle” [1]. The term originated from the United States, where pioneer farmers grazed cattle on huge ranches that were difficult to patrol.[2] In Uganda, cattle rustling is rampant in North-eastern part of the country (Karamoja region), a semi-arid land area. The region has dominant pastoral ethnic groups which include the Dodoth, Jie, Bakora, Matheniko and the Pian all of whom are referred to generally as Karamojong. Traditionally, cattle rustling within the pastoral communities was sanctioned and controlled by elders as a means of testing a person’s personal bravery and prowess. In the recent past however, there has emerged a new system of predatory exploitation of economic resources in the form of cattle rustling and banditry. This problem is manifesting itself in various forms and is becoming endemic in north-eastern Uganda. There has been a tendency by scholars to trivialize the issue of cattle rustling as a mere cultural practice, yet over a period of time there have emerged new trends, tendencies and dynamics, leading to commercialization of the practice. The phenomenon of cattle rustling has caused a breakdown in social order, economic hardships and insecurity in North-eastern Uganda.

2. During post colonial period, different Ugandan governments have adopted anti-pastoral policies leading to loss of land vital for the survival of the Karamajong herds. Today, the menace of cattle rustling in this area has reached unprecedented proportions in nature and scale due to a number of factors including; government policies, socio-political and ecological limitations. The subsequent intervention by government saw to it that disarmament programs were the most viable solution to cease and remove all illegal gun usage by the Karamojong. To date however, all the disarmament programs initiated by government have not solved the problem.

3. This paper is written for the commandant Ghana Armed Forces Command and Staff College as a partial fulfilment for the award of a Pass Staff Course (psc). It seeks to analyse the problems of cattle rustling and banditry activities in Uganda, by examining the historical background of the pastoralists, causes and effects of cattle rustling, attempts by government to address it and finally proposes solutions deemed appropriate. The paper relied mainly on written materials, which included articles, books, reports and journals. The findings could not be comprehensively expressed within the limits of 4,000 words; consequently there was the constraint of space.


4. The aim of this paper is to examine the problems of cattle rustling in Uganda with a view to recommending appropriate solution.


5. Karamojong is a generic term that refers to a group of pastoralists from the Nilo-Hamite ethnic group living in North-eastern Uganda. The region is popularly known as Karamoja and their language is Akaramojong. The community comprises five ethnic groupings namely Dodoth, Jie, Bakora, Matheniko and the Pian totaling about 12% of Uganda’s population of 24.7million. Their history and culture closely interlocks with that of their neighboring pastoralists, the Turkana in Northwestern Kenya. Cattle are crucial within this community not just for subsistence but also for the payment of bride price, which is the basis of establishing bond partnerships within the Karamojong community.[3] The history of the pastoralist organized raids and predatory expansion predate European colonialism of the nineteenth century. During pre-colonialism, pastoralists of the region had been accustomed to the independence and freedom of openly carrying firearms they had for many decades obtained from Arab slave traders and merchants from the East African coast.[4] Karamoja community had a thriving pastoral economy through trade in ironware...

References: [3] Nene Mburu, (1999), Contemporary banditry in the Horn of Africa: Causes, history, and political implications. Nordic Journal of African Studies 8 (2) pp. 89-107.
[4] Beachey, W (1962) .The Arms Trade in East Africa in the late Nineteenth Century’ The Journal of African History, Vol. III, No. 3, pp. 453.
[5] Vol. II, London: His Majesty’s Stationery, 1896. In the context of East Africa see Alec C McEwen, International Boundaries of East Africa, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971.
[6] Katuyoshi Fukui & John Markakis, (Ed) Ethnicity & Conflict in the Horn of Africa, James Currey: London, 1994.
[7] Hutchful, E. 1997. Demilitarizing the political process in Africa: Some basic issues. African
Security Review Vol
[8] Katuyoshi Fukui & John Markakis, (Ed) Ethnicity & Conflict in the Horn of Africa, James Currey: London, 1994.
[10] Odegi-Awuondo, C. 1992. Life in the balance: Ecological sociology of Turkana nomads.
[15] Surrender gun, win yourself land. The East African Standard, May 19, 2002.
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