Mr. President, here are six ways to end gun violence in Karamoja
President Museveni, as commander-in-chief of the country’s armed forces, was due to meet with senior security officials on Wednesday on the explosive situation in the Karamoja sub-region.
Mr. Museveni had just camped three days in Karamoja for an on-site assessment of the volatile situation in the sub-region.
From January to date, many Karamoja families have lost thousands of cattle due to ethnic conflicts.
The feuds have also left at least 100 dead, either by armed warriors attacking the kraals or in crossfire between the army and armed thieves.
This wave of insecurity in the sub-region has been persistent and recurring over the past 20 years, despite attempts to quell it by the ruling NRM government.
So far, the government has carried out three rigorous and brutal disarmament in Karamoja.
The first took place in 2001, the second in 2003 and the third launched on July 17, 2021.
All of these operations were carried out in the vain hope of silencing the guns, stopping bloody raids and loss of life and bringing peace to Karamoja.
But the deeper issues of what fuels the Karimojong’s love of owning guns and engaging in feuds have eluded the government and the military.
In sum, the government has often treated the symptoms and not the cause of the insecurity and armed violence in the semi-arid sub-region.
By the end of 2003, the three firearms withdrawal operations had recovered 10,000 firearms from the Karimojong warriors.
Collections of 10,000 guns made the area secure, but the military continued to collect weapons through intelligence-led operations.
In 2008, the army had collected up to 40,000 firearms, promoting “a false peace” in Karamoja.
After this lull in violence and the roads became passable day and night without any ambush, the government attracted a false sense of security and took off military boots on the ground, again leaving the region open to warriors.
The government’s biggest mistake has been to fail to support the deployment of troops to the region.
The government also forgot to deploy troops to monitor the country’s international border, knowing full well that nomadic Turkana militants, who live just 30 kilometers from Karamoja, remained armed.
And to make matters worse, armed Turkana herders quickly crossed Karamoja with guns to graze some 100,000 head of cattle. Poor security on the ground left the warriors with no choice but to row to protect their kraals, animals and families.
Another mistake made by the government was not to disarm the mindset of the Karimojong.
As the government would soon find out, withdrawing arms and recruiting warriors reformed into the LDUs, but sneaking in as warriors to do raids, messed things up even more.
The government was then forced to announce the third phase of disarmament.
The first disarmament was a soft operation launched by President Museveni in 2001 while he was camping at Morulinga State Lodge in Kangole City Council in Napak District.
It involved Karamoja leaders crossing from county to county, persuading the warriors to give up their weapons and hand them over to the UPDF.
But some leaders have resisted the call to surrender because they made a living from bullets.
This resistance emboldened some warriors who faced the army.
In response, President Museveni ordered political leaders and military commanders to enforce the second phase of disarmament.
Shortly thereafter, the government increased the number of police, intelligence and LDUs in the field.
They had to offer better protection of the population of the region against both internal and external aggressors.
The government has also set up barracks on the border of Kenya and South Sudan, and built security roads, which stretch from Namalu in the district of Nakapiripirit, and head north to cover the borders of Kenya and from Sudan.
To stop inter-clan raids, the government also recruited 146 vigilantes per sub-county and 292 others per sub-counties bordering Kenya and South Sudan.
They were armed and paid by the government and placed under the army.
Government officials then engaged the kraal leaders through radio broadcasts, preaching the dangers of illegal firearms, but some cliques have always resisted the movements.
To mark its authority, on February 15, 2002, the UPDF launched the third disarmament, with orders to shoot on sight anyone found with a firearm on the roads. This involved cordoning off and searching suspected villages and kraals, arresting and prosecuting suspected criminals. The operation was aimed at curbing cattle raids and strengthening the recovery of cattle. The UPDF then embarked on border patrols with Sudan and Kenya, recruiting vigilantes on the basis of a sub-county quota system.
In this third disarmament, military intelligence realized that some leaders were demobilizing the warriors so as not to hand over their arms.
These resistance fighters were arrested and beaten until they joined the campaign to bring weapons out of the kraals and bushes.
Six ways to stop violence
Here are six ways that the government and security chiefs can consider to defuse the endless explosive situation in Karamoja and attempt to create more lasting peace, stability and development in the region.
1.The government must fully investigate why the desire to own guns has not been eradicated from the minds of the Karimojong despite several rounds of disarmament exercises.
2.Compulsory education for the children of Karamoja to break the culture of cattle raiding and prevent the little ones from being introduced to the culture of cattle rustling, which has persisted through generations. The government must recognize that cattle rustling and insecurity in the region are centuries old and have lasted for generations.
This means that the government should come up with a comprehensive solution to the problem. It is accepted that cattle rustling is a culture and that the solution to this problem requires almost lifelong education, learning, unlearning and psychological disarmament.
It is therefore a matter of offering long-term compulsory education to children of the sub-region in order to transform their mentalities.
Merely removing the weapon from the Karimojong leaves it intact with a traditional ingrained mindset that perpetuates cattle rustling whenever the opportunity or environment is ripe.
3.The government and our security chiefs should focus on a sustainable deployment, not intermittently, which is often put to sleep by a temporarily calm and relative peace in the region.
This false peace in the sub-region saw the withdrawal of hundreds of UPDF soldiers for deployment elsewhere.
Our forces and their commanders must know that they are not only fighting warriors armed with weapons, but an invisible enemy; the cattle rustling mentality. This is why armed warriors can melt away but not the practice that resurfaces once the armed forces have let their guard down.
4.Reintroduce electronic animal branding in Karamoja. In 2012, the government, on the initiative of First Lady Janet Museveni, then Minister of Karamoja Affairs, launched electronic livestock tagging with the aim of eliminating cattle theft in the sub-region.
The project cost the government Shs2b and had up to 100,000 tagged cattle, while a further 112,000 remained unmarked due to lack of funds.
How it works
Animals are forced to swallow electronic boluses with owner, village, parish, sub-county and district details, and once this animal is searched and recovered in any other district, it will be detected at using a computer key.
Tagged animals could also be tracked using the chip whenever they were chased by thieves to other locations.
The initiative worked very well and the thieves then feared looting the animals, but the challenge is that many of these branded animals have since been slaughtered and others sold, and the calves are unmarked.
5. Many development or investment projects in the sub-region have been unsuccessful without much tangible change in the nomadic way of life of the pastoralists. This is because projects are designed and delivered from top to bottom, rather than bottom to top.
Likewise, investors do not need to transport precious minerals from the sub-region, but should set up industries in Karamoja to create jobs that can attract young people to the region away from the nomadic way of life.
This means that all mining companies should be conditioned to build factories in Karamoja and employ the idle youth who survive on the looting of the raids.
But the challenge now is that what is happening in Karamoja is not mining, but middlemen masquerading as investors, who get mining leases and sell them to wealthy investors for their own benefit and not for profit. community.
Many potential investors have argued that the lack of high-voltage electricity has limited their plans to build factories in the region.
But the government has completed the construction of a 132 high voltage power line directly to Karamoja to support industrial development.
6. Finally, the recruitment of LDUs in the sub-region should be undertaken at the base, the personnel placed under the strict command of the army and their use of weapons and uniforms strictly controlled so that they are not manipulated by rival tribal leaders Karimojong.