There is need to relaunch disarmament in Karamoja

Peter Cromwell Okello

What you need to know:

  • The government needs to deploy a sizeable number of fully trained well-armed and paid security forces in every village affected by cattle rustling in Abim
  • And every cattle thief caught should face the full force of the law

About a decade ago, government launched a disarmament programme in Karamoja to guarantee security within the sub-region and her neighbourhood.
While the programme ended ambushes and large-scale raids in the region, there has recently been a gradual return of cattle rustling and ambushes in the region.
Abim District is the most affected area in the Karamoja sub-region as it has been attacked every day since 2018 to date.
There have also been cases of people succumbing to injuries from the arrows and bullets shot by the rustlers.
How do you feel after you have worked so hard and bought a cow or goat then some bandit comes and take it away either stealthily or by force? It is painful and provocative. Two weeks ago, at about 1:40 am, I was woken by an alarm in my home village.
The cattle rustlers had attacked and raided all the 13 herds of cattle belonging to one community member. Every attempt by the villagers to rescue the animals were fruitless since there were no state security forces in the area as it used to be five years ago.
In every village, there used to be three-armed paramilitary personnel guarding animals every night. Before they were withdrawn, they had helped contain cattle rustling in Abim.
The bandits that are terrorising Abim are not from far but are the Jie of Kotido District. Every time the animals are raided from Abim, their footmarks lead to Kotido.
For decades, the attempts by the Abim population to invest more in cattle keeping has been interrupted by the rustlers from Kotido. This year, due to rustling coupled with animal quarantine that has lasted for now more than seven months, parents are unable to send their children to school as some animals were lost to cattle rustling and diseases.
Overall, the present security situation in Abim is dire.
Many people are now only looking to God for help. When the community lives in fear for their lives and property, it means there is no peace. Therefore, there is an urgent need for the government to address the situation.
It is the cardinal duty of the government to protect people and their property.
The government needs to deploy a sizeable number of fully trained well-armed and paid security forces in every village affected by cattle rustling in Abim. And every cattle thief caught should face the full forde of the law. We are aware that the Uganda-Kenya border and our border with Sudan have remained porous, enabling illegal guns to easily flow into our country.
And so, however much we try to disarm locally, the possibility of the Karamojong communities along the border rearming themselves are uncontested.
We, therefore, need to consistently control border security to reduce the inflow of guns. There is also a need to relaunch the disarmament programme in the region and that means even the bows and arrows should be removed from the rustlers.
Finally, Jie leaders need to prevail over their people and help them to abandon cattle rustling. It is indeed backward thinking to uphold cattle rustling as an economic activity in this 21st century. Leaders should not fear to rebuke their people to refrain from wrongful acts probably because they fear to lose the next election.

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