It’s reassuring that the insecurity in Karamoja has gone up the agenda of government. First, President Museveni camped in the region for three days for an on-spot assessment. And today, President Museveni meets the armed forces chiefs to think up ways of quickly sorting out the insecurity in the region. This presidential attention that the chaos in Karamoja has attracted highlights the fact that cattle rustling remains a big national challenge, which should be addressed, and urgently too.
Here are some quick takes that the government and the security chiefs may consider for as durable peace and security to prevail in Karamoja sub-region.
Foremost, what the government needs to acknowledge that cattle rustling and security in the region is age-old and have run for generations. This means government should evolve a comprehensive solution to the problem. One is accepting the fact that cattle-rustling is a culture and the solution to it requires a near life-long education, learning, unlearning, and psychological disarmament.
This, therefore, means affording long-term compulsory education to the children in the region to transform their mindsets since they are born in persistent cattle rustling environment or are nurtured in same-old mindset. In short, our argument is that merely taking away the gun from the Karimojong leaves them intact with ingrained traditional mindset that perpetuates cattle rustling whenever the opportunity or environment is ripe.
As for government and our security chiefs, they should emphasize sustainable, and not an on-and-off deployment that is often lulled to sleep by temporarily quiet and relative peace in the region.
This false peace has seen the withdrawal of hundreds of UPDF troops for deployment elsewhere after achieving ‘false peace’ in Karamoja. Our forces and their commanders need to know that they are not only fighting gun-toting warriors, but an unseen enemy; the cattle-rustling mindset. This is why the gun-carrying warriors can melt away but not the practice that resurfaces once the armed forces let down their guard.
Similarly, many development or investment projects in the region have gone to waste without much tangible change in the pastoralists-nomadic lifestyle because the projects are conceived and transmitted top-bottom, instead of bottom-up. Likewise, investors need not ferry away the precious minerals in the region, but put up industries in Karamoja to create jobs that can attract away from nomadic lifestyle, the youths of the region.
And finally, the recruitment of LDUs in the region should be undertaken at the grassroots, the personnel put under strict army command, monitored and use of the gun and uniform strictly controlled so they are not manipulated and exploited by rival tribal leaders.