The army yesterday denied reports that it had killed nine Jie warriors in two separate clashes in Kotido District. The Jie are one of the Karimojong sub-tribes.
UPDF officials admitted that it had killed four warriors in the Friday clashes at Kacheri village but said the other five deaths were a result of fighting between two Jie herding groups.
The UPDF 3rd Division Spokesperson, Capt. Henry Obbo, said the armed herding groups mistakenly clashed thinking they were fighting soldiers.
He dismissed claims by a local politician, Nicholas Abul, that all victims were killed by the UPDF. “We withdrew tactfully and the same group (Jie) met another armed herding group, they clashed thinking they were fighting UPDF and eventually five people died,” said Capt. Obbo.
But Mr Abul, the Kacheri LC III chairman, said the herdsmen were unarmed and peacefully moving with their cows until they were attacked by the UPDF. “The army should identify the warriors who were armed and those who are not. These people were not armed. I don’t know why they were attacked,” he said.
But Capt. Obbo said one gun and 81 bullets were recovered from the herdsmen. “Our target is to get guns not kill people. But we shall not hesitate to shoot back if we are attacked,” he said.
He denied reports that among the dead were children after a botched cordon-and-search disarmament exercise.
The reports claimed that soldiers surrounded a group of huts commonly known as manyatta at about 6pm and allegedly opened fire on a crowd, killing six children.
However Capt. Obbo said, “There is no single child who was killed but of course when there is gun fire, bullets don’t differentiate between a warrior and a child. Our intention as the army is not to kill the children but to protect them.”
cap: CORNERED: Karimojong warriors at an earlier disarmament exercise. The army yesterday denied killing nine warriors. FILE PHOTO