LYANTONDE- Officials in Lyantonde and Kiruhura districts have defied a ministerial directive on the closure of all cattle markets, following an outbreak of foot-and–month disease (FMD) in the area.
Early last month, State minister for Animal Husbandry Joy Kabatsi issued a directive to leaders in the two districts to slap quarantine on the slaughter, sale and movement of cattle following the outbreak of FMD.
The district authorities claim the closure of cattle markets had adversely affected residents in the districts since 90 per cent of households entirely depend on their cattle for a livelihood .
According to local leaders, since the closure of the cattle markets, many children are still stranded at home because parents in both districts have failed to raise school fees for the second term.
“We are sorry; we cannot continue implementing the minister’s directive when our people are suffering. Children who are supposed to be at school are still at home because parents cannot get fees for them,” Mr Fred Muhangi, the Lyantonde District chairperson, said during an interview last Thursday.
While speaking to meat dealers in Lyantonde Town last week, Mr Muhangi claimed the district is free from FMD and wondered why Ms Kabatsi imposed the quarantine before consulting local leaders.
“The disease is in the neighbouring districts, but not Lyantonde, but as we allow you to continue with your business, we must ensure that you do not get cattle from outside Lyantonde District,” he said.
Dr Edward Ssekawojwa, the Lyantonde District veterinary officer, said though the quarantine has partly been lifted, all cattle dealers in the district have to register and be issued with fresh permits allowing them to transport and slaughter cattle.
“There is a group of people who are wrongly using the law to make our people suffer. They deceived the minister that there is foot-and –mouth disease in Lyantonde, which is not the case. Our district is free from FMD, but we are monitoring to ensure that it doesn’t strike again,” he said.
Mr Benon Kikashemera, the chairperson of Nyakashashara Sub-county in Kiruhura District, said after realising that people in the area had failed to take their children back to school, he talked to the district veterinary officials to allow them sell their cows and milk, which is the major source of income in the area.
“We are working closely with our veterinary officials and if FMD was still a threat, they couldn’t have allowed people to sell their dairy products,” he said.
However, he cautioned residents to be careful while transporting their animals.
“We used to sell our cattle, milk and other products for household incomes, but nowadays, it is as though God has forgotten us,” said Mr Paul Asiimwe, a resident of Kyemamba Village in Lyakajura Sub-county.
Ms Kabatsi said the local leaders in both districts had to first write to the ministry to have the quarantine lifted .
“There is an incubation period and if the outbreak was contained, they should have written to us first before rushing to lift the quarantine, but if it was contained, we pray for them. But for Isingiro, the ban stays,” she said.
Mr Christopher Byarugaba, a dairy farmer in Kashagama Sub-county, said the ministry could have declared the quarantine after visiting individual farms to establish the existence of the outbreak.
Lyantonde District police commander Thomas Oyo said as police, they will continue enforcing the quarantine as directed by the minister and warned livestock farmers and cattle dealers not to risk selling any dairy products in the area.
“What I know is that government declared quarantine and we have not yet received any official communication lifting it. So as police, we are going to continue mounting roads and those found transporting cattle or dairy products will be arrested and prosecuted,” he said.
Meanwhile Mr Henry Baguma, the Sembabule Resident District Commissioner, noted that traders risking being arrested and prosecuted for defying the directive.