Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | It is exactly one ever since Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) and Anti-Stock Theft Unit (ASTU) launched forceful disarmament exercise against Karamojong warriors who have caused unrest in the area.
President Yoweri Museveni ordered UPDF and ASTU to go onto offensive after efforts to persuade the warriors to stop the raids failed. The warriors despite several warnings and attempts with the help of area leaders to convince them to hand over weapons, continued with their day and night cattle raids including killing the owners.
Museveni on July 24 last year directed UPDF and police to deploy the necessary armed personnel with aerial support to disarm all warriors. The serious offensive operations began two days later and so far a number of warriors have been killed, with guns and bullets recovered in the last one year.
A report compiled by 3rd Division Commander Brig Gen Joseph Balikuddembe, shared to the offices of Inspector General of Police at Naguru and Chief of Defence Forces at Mbuya shows that the armed forces have in the last one year killed 465 Karamojong warriors and also recovered 413 guns.
Commissioner of Police Fred Enanga, explains that on the side of security, the operations in the last one year have been successful to their satisfaction even though peace hasn’t been fully restored in the area.
Enanga bases the success assessment on not only warriors killed and guns recovered but also on the suspects arrested as well as those charged and remanded based on substantive evidence collected during the operations.
“In the last one year we have been able to arrest 11,264 suspected warriors and of these 1,970 have been charged and remanded,” Enanga explains. “We have recovered 3,283 live ammunition rounds and 465 guns from these warriors. We have also recovered 24,601 cows, goats, sheep and ducks.”
Security says the use of crude waragi has been one of the drivers of violence in Karamoja region. In order to minimize violence emanating from taking crude waragi, Enanga says they are impounding dozens of jerrycans containing waragi which is suspected to have been one of the drivers of violence in Karamoja.
However, both police and army have remained silent on the actual number of security personnel whose lives have been terminated by warriors in the last one year. Last month, stories emerged that soldiers and police officers had been killed by warriors but none of the security agencies has ever come out to confirm or dismiss the information.
In addition, it has severally been reported that more than 100 guns recovered in the ongoing Karamoja operations had markings of UPDF and Police. It has also been reported that a number of the recovered bullets are the ones made in Nakasongola at UPDF arms factory.
Karamoja MPs also indicated during plenary that soldiers were hobnobbing with rustlers. But Brig Gen Felix Kulayigye, the UPDF Spokesperson insists that some local leaders in Karamoja are benefitting from cattle raids.
Brig Gen Kulayigye explains that guns being recovered in Karamoja come from neighbouring countries like Kenya and South Sudan because they did not disarm Turkanas and Tokosas when Uganda did to Karamojong. According to Kulayigye, some of local leaders have been killed commanding rustlers.
Away from accusations of soldiers fueling rustling in Karamoja by supplying warriors with weapons and getting buyers of stolen cattle, locals have accused security agencies of subjecting them to torture during operations. Some women have severally approached Moroto Woman MP Stella Atyang, asking her to present their cries of torture on the floor of parliament.
Atyang said some security agencies become annoyed especially with women they suspect to be married to rustlers. She said women should not be punished for crimes committed by their spouses.
In response, Brig Gen Balikuddembe, the overall commander of Karamoja operations dubbed Usalama Kwa Wote, faults women and locals who know the rustlers but choose to hide them even when they know that they have committed crimes.
Despite the killings of suspected rustlers, arrests, recoveries of guns and bullets, peace is still far from being realised in Karamoja. People are still being attacked, robbed at gunpoint and sometimes shot dead by attackers even in broad daylight.
It will never stop, if the karamojong are still insiting of handing over their weapons to the government,i rember when i was still lad person or young, my father was having thousand heads of cattle, but it comes a time when the disarmment started in the years btn 2003 to 2004 with more disagreement btn the warriors and the updf started, but i was still a young boy, in 2006 my father was arrested by operation (updf) and he was deteine for two weeks untill he open to anounce that he has 02 riffles, and they came and they them, from their upfter that, some few month, the turkana warriors raided our village and they collected all cattles and upto todate we have remain in poverty, m7 is the president of kampala only or central region