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Karamojong women decry torture by security forces, rustlers

Women in Karamoja have decried torture. URN photo

Moroto, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Women in Karamoja are decrying torture at the hands of both the joint security forces and the Karamojong warriors in the ongoing disarmament exercise. The women claim that security forces often torture them on grounds that they conceal information about armed warriors while the warriors on the other hand torture them on suspicion of collaborating with security agencies and disclosing information about their movements.

Margret Lotyang, a resident of Nakapelimen village in Nadunget town council, Moroto district, says that both security and warriors are like the enemies of progress just because they are involved in the struggle for peace in the region.

“I thought we could work with the security forces to eliminate the wrong elements from the community. But unfortunately, when they come for their operations we are not spared. Yet the warriors are also on our neck for leaking secrets to the army,’’ she told URN in an interview. Lotyang called for government intervention to save them from the dilemma they are going through.

Anna Lolem, a mother of four children and resident of Nataparkwangan village in Loputuk sub-county, says that joint security forces tortured her during the recent cordon and search operations to confess that her husband owns an illegal firearm yet he doesn’t own any.

Lolem said several women have gone through the same torture and no one has ever intervened in their issues. ‘’We have seen several government officials come here to document whatever is happening but we have never seen them taking action against those tormenting us,’’ she said.

Stephan Adupa, the chairperson of Moroto women’s peace forum says she has received many reports from women claiming that men are threatening their lives for leaking secrets to the joint security forces about their movements. Adupa noted that whereas they had hope in the security forces, the situation is getting worse because the attacks are coming from both security and warriors. Adupa said there is a need for protection from the government in order to achieve peace in Karamoja.

Betty Akol Nachap, the chairperson of Napak women’s peace forum, says they are tired of being mistreated by security agencies who come for the cordon and search operations. ‘’We are being tortured by our own husbands who are accusing us of leaking information to security forces. However, when the security forces come for their operations, they search our houses and beat us for the same reasons that we are harboring raiders, we really need the intervention from the government to save us,’’ she said.

Nachap said they are tired of being humiliated and the government should use a better approach to eliminate the warriors without women and children bearing the impact of the clashes. She revealed that since July when the operations against illegal firearms intensified, women have been secretly handing over guns kept by their husbands while others help security with the leads about their men in the jungle.

Stella Atyang, the Moroto Woman MP notes that many women in the village are undergoing torture at the hands of security operatives and it is very rare for women to come forward to describe their experiences due to fear and stigma. She claimed that women are often held for covering their husbands and sons suspected of illegal gun possession. Atyang has called upon security forces to always respect the rights of women as they execute their duties of recovering illegal guns.

Brig Gen. Joseph Balikudembe, the UPDF 3rd division commander denies the allegations of torture labeled against the security forces. He, however, blames the women for concealing the information about the movements of their husbands and sons suspected of illegal gun possession.

Balikudembe says that their efforts to recover guns from the warriors are frustrated by the women who conceal information about people with illegal firearms. The community has a slogan ‘imuke ekile’ meaning that cover the man, this talk has frustrated our operations because when we try to work closely with the community to get rid of wrong elements, they just tell us that they don’t know these people and yet they stay in the home eating together,’’ Balikudembe lamented.

He notes that women can play a big role in bringing back peace to Karamoja only if they accept to speak to their men about the dangers of owning illegal firearms and plead with them to surrender.

In April 2021, Karamojong warriors shot and killed a woman who was suspected to have given intelligence information to joint security forces in Kaabong town council.



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