President Yoweri Museveni believes that the current efforts to end commercialised cattle rustling in Karamoja and the surrounding areas will not only restore peace and sanity but also the credibility of the state which a section of leaders in the sub region seem not to be seeing.
While meeting security personnel from the Karamoja region at Morulinga state lodge in Napak district, Karamoja sub-region, Gen Museveni who is also the Commander in chief of the UPDF was shocked to learn from the 3rd Division Commander Big General Joseph Balikuddembe, that some political and clan leaders in Karamoja are engaged in the business of selling of guns to facilitate cattle rustling and blocking justice to prevail hence hindering efforts by the government to pacify the region.
“Your Excellency there is an ongoing covert campaign by some leaders across the sub-region, targeting Kraal-based informers by urging them not to cooperate with security forces in disarmament operations. They accuse Kraal-based informers of betraying their people. A gun trafficker in our custody who has been supplying guns to the worriers’ network in Kotido revealed criminal links with some of these political leaders,” Brig-Gen Balikudembe told the President.
He added that the campaign is spreading across the entire sub-region and has so far resulted in killing two Gombolola (Sub County) Internal Security Officers (GISOs) in Napak and Kotido respectively. Museveni said this should not intimidate security forces from doing their work of restoring the credibility of the state.
“What you’re talking about is what happens when the state is no longer respected. That’s when alternative groups like elders, and witch doctors become an authority because they are not sure whether this government can defend you. This is not surprising at all. We should do our work so that the authority of the state is respected,” Museveni said, blaming members of parliament for acting negatively as opportunistic with no clear vision of what they want to be and their people.
According to reports, Karimojongs strongly believes in their governance system of elders and fortune-tellers where elders from different power positions influence and control the social and political setup of the Karamajong Community called Akirikit. This governance system contradicts the central government system where elders are considered an alternative government.
“For example, as government advocates for children’s education, the elders on the other hand influence the staying home of children to look after cattle,” Brig-Gen Balikuddembe said.
According to Gen Balikuddembe, they are also concerned about the suspicious movement of some leaders of Kotido district to Nakitongo in Turkana Kenya, since the launch of simultaneous Usalama Kwa Wote operations across the sub-region on 16th May 2022.
“They have travelled 3 times to Kenya. Intelligence information shows that these leaders are in advanced stages of convincing Turkana to renew the broken alliance and have peace with them in order to pave the way for fugitive warriors to get where to hide from the ongoing disarmament operations,” Gen Balikuddembe said.
In Karamoja, a gun is exchanged at a rate of 3 to 5 cows or one to two bags of sorghum or purchased with a minimum of 3 million shillings.
“This is the main reason why there’s a continuous recycling of gun violence in Karamoja,” Balikuddembe said but was quick to add that from the 500 profiled criminals, a total of 317 guns with 2,807 rounds of ammunition have been recovered. A total of 22,541 livestock was recovered out of 40,000 reportedly stolen since the launch of operation Usalama Kwa wrote.
President Museveni commended security forces for their concept of simultaneous operations, targeting the armed rustlers with guns, those with bows and arrows, the informers, those with sticks chasing animals and any other suspects. He promised to continue supporting them.
“From what I have heard. I will do my part on the facilitation. Even in the past they were against disarmament but we have got live examples of other regions boarding South Sudan, Congo where there’s no gun violence and are peaceful,” Museveni said.
The meeting was also attended and addressed by Vice President Maj Gen (Rtd) Jessica Alupo Epel and the Deputy Chief of Defense Forces Lt Gen Peter Elwelu. Others in attendance were senior UPDF officers, Resident District Commissioners from the districts of Karamoja and Police Commanders.
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