Moroto gold plant strengthens peace between Turkana and Karimojong

BY STEVEN ARIONG
MOROTO, UGANDA

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With the persistence of the conflict, many men were killed in the raids, leaving a lot of widows to fend for themselves

The establishment of a gold mining plant in Moroto district is believed to have contributed to the end of cattle rustling between the Turkana of Kenya and Karamojong of Uganda. Jan mangle U Ltd, set up by an Indian investor, is located in Nakabat village in Rupa Sub-County, 17 kilometres from Moroto at the border between Uganda and Kenya. Karamoja is located in the north-eastern part of Uganda. It is a 27,200 square kilometre area of semi-arid savannah, bush and mountains. To the east, it is bordered by the Turkana (Kenya). To the north is South Sudan and to the west and south are Ugandan districts populated by Acholi, Iteso and Sabiny people. The most important ecological feature of this region is its rainfall pattern. It gets short rains in April and a longer rainy season from June to early September. However, this pattern is not reliable. For many years, the rains have been sparse, or have failed altogether. Drought and hunger is a recurrent feature of life in Karamoja.

The Karamojong have adapted to this often harsh environment by focusing much of their energy on their herds of livestock – principally cattle, but also goats and sheep, and sometimes a few camels. In addition to being a major source of dietary protein, these animals, especially cattle, represent wealth, both economically and symbolically. During the long dry seasons, the herdsmen leave their permanent settlements and move their cattle to where there is pasture and water, often crossing into the territories of neighbouring regions of Teso and Sebei.

Culture of raids

Competition for scarce resources, particularly water and pasture, and the high value placed on cattle, had in the past promoted a culture of raids and warfare, in which men were noted for their bravery and wealth. The Karamoja conflict has been going on for a long time. As a result, the roles of men and women have changed overtime.

Traditionally, men were charged with the responsibility of hunting, raiding villages for animals, and herding cattle, while the women stayed at home and took care of household responsibilities such as building the huts, gardening (small-scale), preparing meals, and looking after the children. With the persistence of the conflict, many men were killed in the raids, leaving a lot of widows to fend for themselves. The widows and other women have adopted activities like brewing and selling local beer. The men’s roles have also changed overtime due to the reduction in the number of their cows and the restrictions to cross over to other territories. They have now started to build houses, and do some gardening to supplement the relief food. The two long-term enemies are now working together and have promised to stop bickering and concentrate on development, anchored by the mining project. John Lothike, a Turkana from Loima sub-county in Kenya and working as a casual labourer at the gold site, says they are excited by the mining project in Nakabat Village, and adds that it has helped to end the conflict and create a working relationship between the two pastoral communities. “I am so excited over the developments that are making us to get united and forget issues of cattle rustling and killing each other,” he says.






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