One of the four farmers in Kayonza District whose cattle were found grazing on land belonging to the RDF combat training centre in Gabiro has challenged the district’s decision to auction the cows.
Some 158 cows that trespassed on the Rwanda Defence Force’s land were due to be auctioned on Thursday.
However, Steven Safari, whose 104 cows are among those seized, petitioned court seeking for injunction on the district’s decision.
The auction is part of the February resolutions by council committees of Kayonza, Gatsibo and Nyagatare districts, which concluded that cattle that trespass on the land be sold and the money be put in the national treasury.
This was the first auction that was going to be executed in Kayonza District since the decision was taken.
Over the past few weeks Gatsibo District authorities auctioned 493 cattle that belonged to 18 farmers, raising Rwf83.2 million while Nyagatare Rwf25 million from the auction of 180 cattle that belonged to 13 farmers.
On July 4, Safari reported that his cattle had gone missing only to discover that they had been seized after they were found on military land.
After several failed attempts to persuade district leaders to release the cows, on July 22, Safari took the matter to Nyagatare Intermediate Court.
He argued that he had never allowed his herdsman to graze his cattle in Gabiro. The area is famous for green pasture.
“I never allowed my herdsmen to craze my cows in Gabiro zone,” he said.
The New Times understands that although Kayonza District authorities suspended the auction, they have filed a petition to the High Court Chamber of Rwamagana.
Meanwhile, Safari has also filed a case seeking for immediate release of his cows.
Kayonza District officials declined to comment on the matter, citing possible contempt of court.
But the Governor of Eastern Province, Fred Mufulukye, said: “the Government has no interest in taking people’s properties; the decision was made in the interest of the country and Rwandans in general.”
He said the decision by the districts was about safety of the cattle population in the province and preventing the spread of livestock diseases.
Local leaders and the Ministry of Agriculture have described Gabiro as a livestock disease infested zone because it is also habitant for some wild animals.
In the recent past the three district have grappled with a foot and mouth disease outbreak, prompting the Ministry of Agriculture to restrict the movement and sale of cattle from May 2017 to February 2018.
RDF officials and local leaders have previously carried out several sensitisation campaigns for farmers about the dangers of grazing cattle in the disease infested zones.
Light penalties, including fine ranging from Rwf15,000 to Rwf38,000, that had been introduced proved to be ineffective, officials said.