Will disarmament offer a permanent solution to the rustle?
A story in Daily monitor June 3 report that 17 people were shot dead in two weeks during revenge raids on cattle in Karamoja caught my attention. Recently there has been a lot of media coverage about the worsening security situation in Karamoja.
There was that of a daring raid on Lieutenant General Andrew Gutti’s ancestral home in the Napak district. The expectation of further disarmament as a solution to the elusive security in these reports stands out to me.
The Karimojong were not born cattle thieves. The mass raid took place in Karamoja as a result of the ivory trade with the Swahilis, Arabs, Persians, Greeks and Abyssinians. The Karimojong traded ivory for pearls until foreign traders resorted to animal raids to secure ivory deals.
“Once trade began, it was inevitable that a tribe that found its traditional enemies armed with guns would itself be concerned with procuring weapons. What started as a trade in obtaining ivory quickly turned into a trade in obtaining firearms, ”explained Barber J. P, a colonial historian in a 1962 publication The Karamoja District of Uganda: A pastoral people under colonial rule.
The security situation in Karamoja improved after the disarmament program started in 2001. People resupplied the animals; businesses have come back to life and NGOs have resumed their activities. However, relative peace was short-lived. A decade later, illegal firearms reappeared. It is a great threat to the livelihoods and survival of around 1.2 million people. We should find answers to two difficult questions. Why is insecurity in Karamoja not a priority for the government and how will routine disarmament bring lasting peace to Karamoja?
Traditionally, the elders of the kraal officiated in diplomatic matters of internal and external pastoral peace. Today, they are sidelined. It is the army, the police, NGOs / CSOs on the front line to manage complex pastoral conflicts. Elected leaders make well-calculated commitments because security as an agenda plays a central role in political campaigns in Karamoja.
We often stick to the official narrative that the current government has stabilized the country and that Ugandans enjoy a peace and stability they never imagined they could achieve. As other parts of the country can enjoy relative peace, this remains a dream for Karamoja.
The armed Karimojong warriors have never been a great threat to the state. They were allies of the government during the Teso rebellion and in the war against the Lord’s Resistance Army. When LRA rebels attacked the Morulem dispensary in Abim in December 1998, Karimojong warriors fought alongside the army and defeated the rebels. Many people from the Bartanga / Loketo shopping center in Abim district can relate how warriors returned from the battlefield in UPDF armored vehicles, chanting victory songs amid the jubilation and cheers of the villagers .
Based on the above scenario, unlike a rebel group, the illegally armed Karimojong warriors are not interested in state power and have nothing to do with politics. The government will therefore deal with major threats such as rebels or ADF terrorists, and what President Museveni recently described as “pigs who do not value life”. cattle.
The ongoing new disarmament brings hope to the people of Karamoja and their neighbors, but will not provide a permanent solution. Warriors will continue to acquire weapons across the porous borders of Kenya and South Sudan. As long as the Turkana pastors of Kenya and their South Sudanese counterparts like the Toposa remain armed, disarming the Karamojong is a temporary solution. It is pure truth.
Henry Okidi Okoth is a social scientist interested in conflict, poverty and marginalization. @OkothhO