Moroto, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | A section of leaders in the Karamoja sub-region have been accused of extorting from the community to bail out suspected cattle rustlers arrested during security operations against illegal guns.
Forces say that they have recorded a series of complaints from the public about leaders convincing the community to pay a certain amount of money to facilitate the release of their relatives held in custody as suspects. The forces are now investigating district and sub-county leaders together with their councillors who have been pushing for the release of suspects claiming they are innocent.
Brig Gen Felix Busizoori, the UPDF 3rd Division Deputy Commander says that they received information from the concerned community that their area leaders have extorted money to the tune of 2 million Shillings to secure the release of the suspected criminals. He adds that they are taking the matter seriously because the practice is a threat to peace in the region.
Busizoori said they have been at loggerheads with local leaders asking for the release of some suspects, and the forces had not detected that the demands were a result of the extortion. He adds that the same suspects for whom the leaders plead innocence have sometimes ended up confessing to owning illegal firearms and helped the forces to recover them.
He warned the leaders to desist from the act in order to avoid being arrested for criminal conspiracy as security opens up investigations against those who are accused of collecting money for the community.
However, Moroto District Speaker Ceaser Akol told URN that half of the illegal guns retrieved from the suspected warriors were through the effort of the same area leaders. Akol says the leaders have contributed immensely to peacebuilding in the region making some individuals unhappy because they want to gain in the insecurity.
Akol appealed to security forces to carry out special investigations into the matter and bring such errant leaders to book.
In July 2022, the leaders in Kotido district demanded the release of notorious cattle raiders on grounds that the warriors were threatening to kill them for cooperating with forces to arrest their colleagues. The leaders said that the suspects could be set free to provide leads to the warriors who are still in the jungle.