Disarmament brings smiles to Karamoja

Disarmament brings smiles to Karamoja

Disarmament brings smiles to Karamoja

BY STEVEN ARIONG
KARAMOJA, UGANDA
From 1990 to 2006, exchanging a smile with a Karimojong pastoralist was something unheard of because the Karimojong were a very hostile community.

Disarmament brings smiles to Karamoja

Happy Karimojong girls playing. PHOTO By STEVEN ARIONG

During those days, nobody wished to be a friend of the Karimojong. A case in point was an incident in 1998 in now Amudat district in 1998 when the cattle traders dared traveling from Pallisa and Mbale districts in Teso and Bugisu subregions in their two Fuso lorries to buy animals in Amudat market. They bought about 80 cows but something nasty happened to them. When the traders were loading animals onto their trucks a group of the Karimojong warriors, some of whom had sold these traders their cows later ambushed them.
They killed all the eight traders and they took back their animals including the money that they received from the
traders.
Shooting and killing was the dream for every Karimojong. None of them thought of looking for any job until 2002
when the government launched disarmament exercise.
The disarmament was not simple since it involved direct exchange between the army and the warriors. During the operations several soldiers and warriors including innocent civilians died.
That was then. Now Karamoja is peaceful region and the mean looking Karamojong men now have friendly smiles on their faces after government collected over 48,000 illegal guns.
Cattle traders from Bugisu, Teso and Acholi are now trading freely without any fear of being ambushed.
The collection of these illegal guns has seen the Karimojong becoming a friendly place. The karimojong are now hunting for jobs, which was not in their minds when they were still holding guns.
A few are still keeping guns but at the moment they don’t have time to use those guns because security is beefed up in the region and any gunshot will be traced by the security and the gun recovered.
Mr. Apun Angoun aka Lopeta who is now a musician was a very rough boy who could not talk to anybody apart from killing only. He spent much of his childhood in the bushes ambushing vehicles and killing people until he was disarmed in 2007 and he changed his character.
He now wonders why he wasted time waylaying vehicles and killing people yet there is better life without a gun.

“I blame my previous acts of ambushing and killing people to my parents whom I found doing that and nobody could tell me that ambush and killing people was bad,” he said.

Mr. Teko Losukari, who was a fearless commander of warriors in Nadunget sub-county in Moroto district reformed after the army arrested him and his gun was taken. He has started a new life.
He now makes his candles and sells them. He uses a broad smile to engage customers to buy his candles. “When Shooting and killing was the dream for every Karimojong.
None of them thought of looking for any job until 2002 when the government launched disarmament exercise. The disarmament was not simple since it involved direct exchange between the army and the warriors. During the operations several soldiers and warriors including innocent civilians died.
I was in bush I didn’t imagine that having friends is the best way to go in this world,” he said while making his candles.
Mr. Loli, a former warrior commander for Jie in Kotido district who was involved in the ambush of the presidential convoy killing soldiers in
Panyangara is now one of the bodaboda riders taking people from Kotido to Moroto. He also puts on a smile.
The resident district commissioner Amudat Mr. Stephen Nsubuga Bewayo said Karimojong are now ready for development.
He said the few boys who are still hiding with guns in the bushes were desperate because they have no ground for them to use their guns.

“The Karimojong are very good and hardworking people. The only problem is that most of them didn’t go to school but we are now sensitizing them to know the value of education,” he said.


 

He said although most of them don’t have academic papers, there are other jobs that some of them can fit in such as guards and cleaners.
“We should not leave these people without any support since they have come out and they have abandoned cattle rustling. They are now good people. Let’s give them jobs without any fear,” he said.






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