Security accuse Karamojong warriors of recruiting children for cattle raids

A boy pictured herding cattle in the restive mineral-rich Karamoja sub region recently. PHOTO/ FILE

What you need to know:

  • UPDF spokesperson, Isaac Oware said the army intensifies the operations to return total peace in greater Karamoja, those in positions of leadership should make sure that the children find themselves in school, which will be the start of the greater change.

Security operatives in the restive Karamoja Sub-region have decried the alleged recruitment of children by suspected cattle rustlers. 

This is because unspecified number of children have been reported dead during UPDF operations against the suspected cattle rustlers in the mineral rich region.

Kotido Resident District Commissioner (RDC), Mr Ambrose Onorai, said they got reports of minors, especially boys being recruited by the warriors as part of their initiation into the culture of cattle rustling. He said during cattle raids, the children are in most cases the ones sent to open kraals of the rustlers' victims and in the event that there is an encounter with the forces, the minors fall victims. 

He said the number of unaccounted for children in such acts is so big but because those who recruit them fear to be identified, the children fatalities have gone unmentioned. 
“The recent Napupum incident was a case of stray bullets between the warriors and UPDF soldiers which killed a 12-year-old boy, but there are unique cases that have claimed the lives of these young children because they are recruited into the ranks of being future warriors,” Mr Onoria explained. 
According to the RDC, there are more children out of school in Karamoja Sub region reduced to livestock herders than there are in schools. 

He said that in every engagement that he has had, his appeal has always been to have children return to school, arguing that it is the only mechanism through which the children can grow up to become responsible people in society. 
“Cases of children being taken to witch-doctors for blessings and indoctrination in the raiding culture are much more pronounced here. Is that what we need?,” Mr Onoria said. 
Mr John Loumo, civil society activist, said cases of children being killed in crossfire were registered in areas of the Tepeth.
 He said the suspected warriors usually deploy the children ahead of them during raids, especially on the Tepeth settlements and in the event that they are overpowered, the children suffer the wrath of security operatives. 
Mr Loumo said the only solution to have the insecurity that is related to raids end, is to ensure that all school going children at school are sent to school.
“The number of children who are in the ranges herding livestock is three times bigger than the ones attending school in the entire Karamoja. That presents a dark future,” he said.
The third division army spokesperson based in Moroto, Isaac Oware, said it is common knowledge that children are being recruited into the ranks of raiders. 

He said the Napupum incident was unfortunate one, which involved a stray bullet hitting a 12-year-old to death.
“In the process of the exchange between the warriors and the army, a stray bullet hit a young man who was grazing,” he said.
Mr Oware said as the army intensifies the operations to return total peace in greater Karamoja, those in positions of leadership should make sure that the children find themselves in school, which will be the start of the greater change.

However, there have been cases of human rights abuse reported against security forces carrying out disarmament operations in the sub region.
Last month, the UN human rights and the Uganda Human Rights Commission said they had registered 36 new cases of human violations by security forces in the Karamoja sub-region.
The cases were recorded between the months of June and September 2022. The report released by the UN human rights during the Karamoja Regional protection meeting held on September 23 in Amudat District indicates torture was the major case committed by UPDF followed by arbitrary arrest.

The UN Human Deputy Country Director, Grace Pelly said the major cases recorded include torture, arbitrary arrest during the cordon, and search operations against illegal guns.
Pelly said they had tasked the security forces to explain the steps they had taken to address the irregularities within their command. 
At the meeting, Mr Oware said they have always ensured that there is zero tolerance for any form of violation within their operational areas. 

Mr Oware noted that the training they received from UN Human Rights had helped to mitigate some of the operational misconduct and violations.
‘’Our officers acquired skills on the importance of human rights, code of conduct adhered to when conducting the cordon and search operations’’ he said.
Oware added that some of their officers who have been implicated in human rights abuses have been prosecuted.
In March, the Uganda Human Rights Commission and UN Human rights reported 83 cases of human rights violations registered against security forces in Karamoja between January 2021 and March 2022.