Ethnic clashes in Kenya threaten Karamojong peace

2015-05-20 15:57:25 steven-ariong

Ethnic clashes in Kenya threaten Turkana peace ambassador Immanuel Imana shakes hands with President MuseveniKaramojong peaceBy 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.

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A life of blood, pain and regret

2015-04-23 19:31:32 steven-ariong

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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Shun ‘Bleached Girls’ Warn Karimojong Elders

2015-04-23 19:25:47 steven-ariong

The narrative of skin colour and beauty has for centuries provided fodder for creative imagination, even giving storylines to music and movie industries.

An entire negritude movement was born out of the self-consciousness of being black. It became a literary and ideological philosophy that celebrated blackness, African history, traditions and beliefs.

In the 1920s and 30s, black students and scholars mainly from French colonies kicked off the dust that opposed Western domination of Africa. Francophone African intellectuals, writers and politicians coalesced around Martinican poet Aime Cesaire and Leopold Sedar Senghor who later became President of Senegal to spread the negritude movement.
Form then great writers such as Richard Wright and Franz Fanon emerged.

A century later, elders in Karimojon region of Uganda, who have neither read nor watched a book or movie on negritudism, were preaching to young Africans on the importance of being proudly African.

The elders from Namalu Sub-County, Nakapiripit district in Karamoja were livid from the fact that beautiful Ugandan women were destroying their God given beauty by bleaching their skin.

Either through ignorance or stupidity, the elders argued, some women were too ashamed of their dark complexion and invested in skin bleaching creams.

The angry elders used a public forum to warn their sons and grandsons against marrying women who use skin lightening creams. Such women, they argued, were irresponsible, ill-mannered and badly brought up.

John Apalokol an elder and a resident of Tokora described as ‘disturbing,’ the increased and continued use of skin lightening creams among women in Karamoja: “What are you girls looking for when you bleach yourselves. You very beautiful in the way God created you but you destroy that by bleaching yourselves. I am sure some of my sons are here. Should you bring a bleached girl home for a wife, I will disown you and I will not contribute to your marriage,” he cautioned.

Mathew Lokol, also an elder, said a bleached woman is unfit to live in the Karimoja environment which involved tough activities like grazing and digging. He believes that light skinned women cannot cope with intense physical activity.

The elders’ warning compelled some light skinned girls and women to leave the meeting in fear.

Sarah Nakut, a mother, blamed the current high rate of bleaching to Western education, which she said has taught girls to copy bad cultures.

As the elders meeting ended, their audience went home with the age old narrative ringing in their minds. The bleaching and skin colouring debate will continue informing the literally and entertainment industry from Karamojong to New York City.

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Moroto imposes evening ban on government vehicles

2015-04-22 19:35:30 steven-ariong

Moroto Municipal Council has banned the use of government vehicles after 5pm.

The council says that the ban on vehicles attached to it will help in saving resources wasted on misuse, mismanagement and abuse of vehicles. The resolution on the movement ban was reached during a full council meeting in order to control unnecessary expenditure on fuel and repairs of government cars.

The council also ordered for the arrest of strangers found driving or using vehicles belonging to the municipality.

Mohamed Hassan the councillor representing South division says Moroto Municipal Council has lost many motorcycles and vehicles to reckless drivers who are not employed by the council. Says Hassan: “As we speak, Moroto Municipal council has only one lorry on road. Many other vehicles have broken down. Some are spoiled by officers who drive vehicles past 5pm while drank,’

The meeting resolved that only the Town Clerk and the Mayor would be allowed to use municipal vehicles after working hours.

Grace Adyaka the women representative said all the Municipal council vehicles must be parked at the Municipal yard by 5pm and keys handed to the office of the Municipal Engineer.

Akuma Muzamin the town clerk welcomed the move by the council.

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Bane of absenteeism

2015-04-22 19:33:42 steven-ariong

Residents of Moroto district have hailed the Chief Administrative Officer Robert Mulondo for implementing measures that have reduced absenteeism at government offices by public servants.

Mulondo organized a community accountability meeting in Tapac Sub County in Moroto district to the excitement of the resident.

John Lote, one of the residents of Tapac sub-county said in the past, civil servants working in Tapac sub-County operated by remote, and lived in Moroto town. But today, they reside at the sub-county premises.

Lote said Moroto was one of the districts with rampant absenteeism especially by teachers and the health workers. However, since Mulondo arrived, absenteeism has reduced.

Lote attributed the development to impromptu inspections of government offices by the new Chief Administrative Officer.

Grace Nakut another resident of Moroto town said at the district the officials report for work by 8am and leave office by 5pm.

The deputy resident district commissioner Helen Pulkol advised the residents to also monitor performance of government projects in the villages.

“You’re the ones to inform us of any government projects that are poorly done so that we can take action,” she says.

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