By Steven Ariong
Ugandan military leadership is worried that persistent ethnic clashes between the Turkana and Pokot communities in Kenya are a threat to peace in Karamoja region.
Many families fleeing from the raids and killings in Kenya have sought refuge in Karamoja. Captain Jimmy Omara, the Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) 3rd Division spokesperson says that following the cross border clashes, illegal firearms have entered into the Karamoja region.
He says that although the number of guns in Karamojong hands had declined in recent years, the UPDF has between January and March 2015 recovered 32 guns along the border corridor: “When you look at our UPDF statistics on guns recovery, between January and December 2014 we recovered 60 guns. Recovering 32 in three months could simply mean that we shall surpass last year’s figure by December 2015,” he says.
For decades, the Turkana and Pokot communities have been involved in bloodletting over boundaries, pasture, water and other national resources. The current bloody war is over the communal ownership of Kapedo; a resource rich enclave claimed by the two communities.
Uganda, which suffered its own share of communal and trans-border conflicts has managed to restore peace and order within its borders. Captain Omara told the Turkana Guardian that the UPDF has beefed up security along its border with Kenya to ensure no sparks of conflicts spill over into Karamoja.
In March 2015, during the Tarehe Sita Celebrations in Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni directed the UPDF to shot to kill any Kenyan Turkana and or Pokot crossing to Uganda with weapons.
Said Museveni: “Kenya has refused to disarm its people. When we were disarming the Karimojong we told them to also do disarmament but they have not. So we shall not waste time with them. Whenever you see armed Pokot or Turkana entering Uganda we will give them horizontal arrangement,” Museveni said.
Moruanayece Cultural Peacebuiding Festival: Tracing the Route- 21 December, 2014 in Kotido District, Uganda.
The annual event attracted more than 5,000 people, including Karimojong of north-
eastern Uganda, Iteso of eastern Uganda, Turkana of northwest Kenya, Toposa of
South Sudan and Nyangatom of Southern Ethiopia. The group commonly known
as the Ateker people, who comprise of the Karimojong of Uganda, Iteso of eastern
Uganda, Turkana of Kenya, Toposa of South Sudan and Nyangatom of Southern
Ethiopia, every year on 21 December, gather in Kotido District, Uganda, the birth-
place of Ata Nayece, grandmother nayece, who was a Jie from Kotido, believed
to be the founder of today’s Turkanaland. This event is one of the cultural peace-
building initiatives, a local solution to insecurity, employed by the Turkana County
Government and Uganda’s Karamoja region authorities, to bring peace and harmony
among the Turkana and the Karimojong communities.
Napak district officials led by RDC Mr. Noman Ojwee talks to Karimojong families in their cassava garden in Napak. PHOTO: STEVEN ARIONG
Karamoja sub-region in the northeastern Uganda has fertile soils, which provide opportunity for crop farming. However, the land has long been underutilized due to the pastoral practices.
Over the years, cattle raids between the Ugandan Karimojong, Kenyan Turkana, and Toposa of Southern Sudan, has led to the loss of livestock and human life. A month-long survey by Turkana Guardian across the region shows the cattle owned by one household have reduced from between 1,000 and 2,000 heads, to as few as 20 heads. The Karimojong have now turned to food production as alternative means of survival.
“We hope to cope with life through farming. This activity was out of our minds when we had livestock,”said Peter
Teko, a resident of Panyangara Village in Kotido district. Betty Nachap, a resident of Katanga Village in Nadunget Sub-county, Moroto district said her family adopted crop farming after losing cattle to rustlers. The District Agriculture Officer Nakapiripirit, Mario Tengei said although farming is practiced on a small-scale, more families are now embracing it. “Our people used to do farming but it was not real farming because most of their time was spent looking after cows,” he said. He added that with the reduction in the number of cattle per household, people “are practicing farming seriously.” “When you move around, every family has not less than four acres of land planted with crops. This was not there before,” he said.
Tengei believes if the weather pattern favours the region in the next three years; the region will join the rest of the country in food production. Karamoja is now becoming a foodbasket supplying other regions.
The Uganda government through the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) has set aside US$8.46 million (USh 2 billion) to carry out electronic cattle branding exercise in Karamoja region.
This was announced by Ketty Namero, the undersecretary in OPM recently during a one-day regional meeting on electronic cattle branding at Mt. Moroto hotel.
In 2012, Government launched electronic cattle branding to get rid of cattle rustling in Karamoja. Namero noted that the government branded up to 80,000 cattle in the region during the first phase of electronic branding.
The second phase to be managed by OPM in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Industry targets
112,000 cattle. She explained there were a lot of challenges in the initial phase, which included low community mobilization in some districts. She appealed to district leaders to play their role to ensure there will be no more resistance from the community on the electronic cattle branding exercise. “We need to work as a team. My appeal is to the politicians to sensitize the community about the importance of electronic branding of cattle to get rid of cattle theft,” she said.
Under the programme, the cattle swallow electronic boluses bearing details of the owner, village, parish and district. In the event the animal is raided and recovered from another district, the cattle are detected using a computer.
The Turkana Guardian has learnt that the electronic cattle branding has drastically reduced cattle theft because the animals are easily identified and returned to the rightful owners.
On the other hand, branded cattle are not sold easily, and the hides have low value.
John Lorot, the district chairperson of Nakapiripirit who’s also the Karamoja regional chairperson commended the project. He said it had helped the recovery of cattle. “Before this project was introduced we had a lot of issues in the community when it came to handing over recovered animals to the rightful owners. This was because people whose animals were not raided could claim the recovered animals. But since the programme began, it has eliminated the habit because the machine tells the rightful owner of the cattle,” he said.
The IG must plan NPR training on basic security elements, such as radio communication, patrolling, situation reporting, skills at arms, first aid, discipline, and code of conduct
The recent visit to Turkana by the Inspector General of Police and the announcement that there will be recruitment of an estimated 600 National Police Reservists (formerly KPRs) represented the national government’s recognition of the incessant insecurity in the county. If this can be realised, the killings at Kainuk, Loyapat, Nakwamoru, Kaputir, Nadome, etc will significantly drop. Lives that are lost under predictable raids will be saved. The bad statistics will come down a great deal. Security must be seen as counter-actions that are commensurate to the existing security risks. In Security risk management, one must first map out real measurable risks through security risk analysis. Much of this has already been done in the county. My view is that the following pertinent issues must be made to happen: The IG must be pressed to fast track the promised NPR recruitment and quickly commission NPRs border camps. The IG must plan NPR training on security basic elements, such as radio communication, basic patrolling, situation reporting, skills at arms, first aid, basic observation, discipline, code of conduct, leadership and administration. County security sheriffs must work out
a plan to centralise the management of the county border security information/ intelligence.
Border access roads
The county should pave a border access road, 10km from the border. The border access road should run as shown in the attached map. The border access road will allow NPR to carry out 24/7 overlapping border mobile patrols, whose benefits would include intelligence collection for the government, rapid short and sharp response to locations in distress, deter raids, efficient casualty evacuation of the kraals that happen to be raided unawares, ease of supplies, to mention but a few. The national and county governments should motivate the NPRs through monetary stipends (already promised). National and county government-supported NPR mobile border patrols backed
by radio communications and the confidence in inter-post rapid response at distress from one post to another would certainly stop the repetitive raids registered deeper into the county. Insecurity bedevilling Turkana is directly affecting both national and county governments’ programmes. Fixing it will require concerted efforts from the two in
systems and processes. If such a bold and concerted effort has resulted in many dividends along Todonyang-Kokuro-Kibish line, why not elsewhere?
The two counties could work towards realising the concept of the attached graphical representation if the Turkana kraals, now pressed further and further North, are to ever regain the lost confidence of migrating to and from the border grazing fields.