A life of blood, pain and regret

Paul Lotukei, 28, is a man whose young life has known only blood, pain and regret. He spent his younger life stealing cows and killings for a living. Then in 1998, this resident of Nakambi Village, Moroto district of Uganda fell into the arms of the army.

His killings techniques and ruthlessness earned him a place on the list of the Uganda Defence Forces most wanted list. He was beaten and tortured when the army eventually arrested him.

Having lost his gun and ability to live violently, Lotukei’s life became hard. He started burning charcoal for survival. One day he was shot and injured by rival warriors who had refused to surrender their guns to the army when Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni ordered the disarmament of all cattle rustlers.

Despite the shooting, Lotukei had to be strong for his own survival and that of his family. He was lucky to be among 20 youth trained by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization as a community animal health worker.

With the new training and empowerment, he has no more interest in a gun, which only revives painful memories. Although the gun was for years his source of livelihood, he has totally rejected it.

Everyday Lotukei leaves home at 7am to treat farmer’s cattle and is paid a modest fee. He works till 6p.m. He is in charge of the community animal health workers of Musasi parish in Katikekile Sub County in Moroto district.

“If I had been given this kind of support when I was growing up, I would have not picked the gun and destabilized my brothers the Turkana and within Karamoja,” he says regrettably. His new training has given him knowledge to serve as a community animal health worker thus enabling him to cater for his family.

“I wasted my time in cattle rustling by now I would be a rich man, I was the second in command of the Matheniko cattle rustlers. In 1997, I led a group of 15 warriors from Katikekile Sub-County to raid animals in Turkana. We succeed and raided 400 cattle. We passed through Lorengkipi, and found Turkana armed warriors, we fought them for about two hours and overpowered them. On reaching Nakonyen in Moroto, we landed into an ambush organized by the army. We exchanged fire with the soldiers for about 3hrs and killed 12 UPDF soldiers. We lost 10 of our boys but defeated the army,” he narrates almost in a regrettable daze.

He sold the raided cattle and bought more guns. Lotukei was on the army’s wanted list. He handed himself in to the authorities.

“I came out and went to the late Brig. Patrick Kankiriho the former division commander of UPDF 3rd division and asked him to forgive me. He forgave me and gave me a certificate of amnesty. Now I don’t want to touch even a gun because what I am earning now as community animal health worker is much better than staying in bush and missing my family,” says the reformed cattle rustler.

Instead of touching a gun, his hands and fingers prefer to touch the needles for injecting animals. His drug kit has become his gun.

Lotukei thanked the Government of Uganda for disarming them because the guns had hindered development in the region. He says that although he inherited the gun culture from his parents, he would not like his children to follow in such footsteps.

He has built a semi-permanent house to prove to other warriors that there is a better life beyond cattle rustling and ambushing vehicles. Lotukei appeals to his former colleagues still in hiding to surrender their guns and embark on productive activities.

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