Moroto, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Commanders of the Anti Stock Theft Unit-ASTU have been hailed by the UN human rights country representative, Robert Kotchani for respecting human rights while carrying out disarmament operations in Karamoja.
Kotchani, who last week officially closed a one-day Karamoja regional human rights protection meeting held in Moroto, said ASTU personnel constitute one of the forces that have respected human rights and called upon other state agencies such as UPDF and regular police to follow their example.
ASTU is a unit within the police force created to deal with livestock theft.
Currently, there are about 2,000 ASTU personnel deployed to do joint operations with the Uganda People’s Defence Force to end cattle rustling in Karamoja.
“Our human rights records show that from the beginning of January to March this year, there are only 3 cases of human rights abuse by ASTU while on duty in Karamoja but after our joint regional human rights meeting, ASTU commanders have improved and right now from March to June it is only one case of human rights violations which am sure going forward it will reduce to zero cases,” he said.
The statement by Kotchani lit a smile on the faces of ASTU commanders who attended the meeting. Micheal Longole, the Karamoja regional police spokesperson told URN that it is their obligation as disciplined forces to respect human rights.
“When you look at our operations, respect for human rights is number one,” he said.
Paul Mudong, chairman of the peace committee of Lotiri village in Nadunget sub-county said the current operations by the forces in Karamoja are so friendly compared to the first operation of 2002 to 2007.
“Much as there are some incidents of human rights abuse, it is not like in the first disarmament exercise where people were mistreated like terrorists,” he said.
Clementina Nangiro, another peace committee member said the respect for human rights was a reason why women are taking a lead in gun recovery as there is no fear of mistreatment.
Paul Lokol, the district chairperson Nabilatuk district said the forces need to involve more stakeholders such as religious leaders in the operations.
“We are happy that abuse of human rights in Karamoja is not like in the previous disarmament but more effort is needed so that the forces don’t go over board,” he said.