Salone News

Koinadugu: Cattle rustlers on the rampage

13 August 2008 at 18:29 | 496 views

Cattle rustling has been a perennial problem in the north of Sierra Leone, the main source of the country’s meat products. Koinadugu district, on the border with Guinea, because of its terrible road networks and isolated cattle ranches, is a prime target for cattle rustlers.

They struck again a few days ago, burning houses and killing people. Official sources in Freetown say four of five rustlers that attacked an isolated cattle ranch in an attempt to steal some cattle have been arrested. The sources however say these attacks do not threaten national security but are just the work of criminal elements taking advantage of the fact that the police in Koinadugu cannot effectively patrol the area due to very bad roads and lack of adequate logistics.

"Government, in no uncertain terms, denounces this development and is doing all in its power to put a halt to it," one of the sources told the Vanguard.

The same source, who asked for anonymity, condemned attacks on the Bo-Kenema highway by armed robbers but was quick to stress that the situation is receiving the full attention of police boss Brima Acha Kamara and his men.

"The security forces are currently on top of the situation in order to ensure the safety of all Sierra Leoneans and everyone using not only that route(Bo-Kenema highway) but all other routes within Sierra Leone," he said.

Sierra Leone has a large pool of young people and ex-combatants, a lot of them currently unemployed.This poses a security threat the government and the inernational community are fully aware of and are trying to contain.

The country’s secuirty forces lack many things including equipment and transportation to combat crime in isolated areas.

Cattle ranches in Koinadugu can be extremely isolated as the cattle rearers move further and further away from human habitation in search of grass for their cattle. Their contact with the outside world is mostly by way of small transistor radios through which they listen to broadcasts from FM stations in Kabala (the district capital),Makeni (the regional capital) and stations in neighbouring Guinea. They are usually armed only with knives and swords due to Sierra Leone’s very strict gun laws.

In other parts of the north cattle ranchers often clash with local authorities and farmers who complain about the destruction of their crops and farmland by the cattle.

Photo: Police boss Brima Acha Kamara.