Kenyan authorities hand over guns taken from UPDF soldiers in geologists attack

Deputy commissioner for Lokiriama, Mr Yacob Tirop handing over the Ugandan  guns that the suspected Turkana cattle rustlers took from the two UPDF soldiers they killed alongside three geologists in Moroto District in Karamoja sub region on March 21, 2022. PHOTOS/ STEVEN ARIONG

What you need to know:

  • President Museveni’s son and the commander of land forces, Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba, on last month vowed retribution over the geologists attack.
  • Some 170 illegal guns and more than 15,000 stolen cattle have been recovered since July last year, according to government figures. 


Kenyan authorities have recovered and handed over two guns which suspected Turkana cattle rustlers took away from two UPDF soldiers killed alongside three Ugandan geologists in Moroto District in Karamoja sub-region last month.

The guns were handed over on Wednesday by Turkana County officials led by deputy county commissioner, Mr Yacob Tirop. They were received by the joint security forces of Uganda led by Brig Joseph Balikudembe, the 3rd division commander at Lokiriama in Turkana County.

Mr Tirop apologized for the attack which left Richard Kiggwwe, the lead geologist and his colleague, Charles Olweny-- both from Uganda’s mineral and energy ministry –dead. They had travelled 490 kilometres (300 miles) from the capital Kampala to Moroto District alongside an intern identified as Edna Musiime from Makerere University who was also killed in the attack. Their two military escorts were also killed and their guns and uniform taken.


They came under attack during a mineral mapping exercise in Karamoja, an impoverished and volatile region in the country's northeast.

Their translator reportedly tried to explain to the armed warriors about their mission in the area but the warriors, probably out of lack of information opened fire, killing all the five in cold blood. The translator escaped with an injury on the stomach.

Regrettable attack

Mr Tirop said the attack was regrettable and vowed to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

According to him, Kenya continues to enjoy the cordial relationship with Uganda and that the relationship by the two neighboring countries will not be spoiled by induvial criminality.

"We shall work hand in hand as two countries to ensure that such incidents are not repeated," he said.

Mr John Munyes, the former Minister for minerals who was present also apologized on behalf of Turkana County for the attacks.

"Please Uganda accept and receive our sincere apologies for the pain that our few individuals caused to the people of Uganda,” he said.

Turkana women listening to speeches at the hand over of the guns

After the March 21 attack, the joint security forces in Uganda flashed Turkana pastoralists out of the remote, mineral-rich sub region bordering South Sudan and Kenya.

Most of them returned to Kenya where officials said they are losing their animals due to lack of pasture and water.

According to Mr Munyes, Turkana pastoralists will lose more thousands of heads of cattle to draught should Uganda government continue blocking them from grazing in Uganda.

However, Brig Balikudembe said they would not allow the Turkana pastoralists to return to Karamoja not until Kenya authorities hand over the suspects who were involved in the attack.

No criminals, empty magazines

"I thank Kenya government for handing over these guns but where are the criminals and the guns they used for killing the geologists? Also, one of our guns had 100 bullets but you have only handed over the guns with empty magazines. Where are our bullets?" he asked.

According to him, the Turkana County officials have been apologizing for the atrocities committed by pastoralists from their area but no action taken against them or to stop their criminality.

"How long shall you continue apologizing because this not the first incident to happen? Last year, the Turkana pastoralists killed our soldier and took the gun but later recovered and handed over to us, still you apologized again this time you’re still apologizing. We shall only allow the Turkana to return to Karamoja after some steps of movement is agreed and criminals arrested, “he said.

Karamoja -- a sparsely populated and underdeveloped region -- has been wracked for decades by insecurity due to tit-for-tat armed cattle raids between clans. 
With a porous border and thriving illicit trade, the Karimojong nomadic communities have staged several often-fatal road ambushes and robberies in the lawless region. 

READ: Three geologists, two UPDF soldiers killed by suspected rustlers in Moroto

President Museveni’s son and the commander of land forces, Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba, on last month vowed retribution over the geologists attack.
"My Karimojong brothers! We have begged you to stop the life of robbery and violence. We have begged you to stop attacking your neighbours at no avail," Kainerugaba said on Twitter on March 23. 
"Well, now we are coming, and hell is coming with us."
The government has in the past conducted several security operations to retrieve illegal firearms from the community.

Some 170 illegal guns and more than 15,000 stolen cattle have been recovered since July last year, according to government figures. 
At least 251 suspected cattle rustlers were killed last year in the sub-region by a joint force of police and the army, with most deaths attributed to forceful disarmament operations.

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