UPDF back to drawing board over disarmament of Karimojong
Moroto, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Uganda Peoples’ Defence Forces -UPDF has been forced back to the drawing board to redefine their strategy in disarming armed Karimojong who continue to be a security threat in Karamoja.
The Deputy Chief of Defence Forces of UPDF Gen. Peter Elwelu is leading the discussions amongst top commanders and security personnel in the 4th Division Headquarters where he has pitched camp since arriving to the sub region on Thursday.
Gen Elwelu held separate meetings and will today Saturday hold another bigger meeting with his top commanders at Division headquarters in Moroto town particularly to look at the strategy of disarmament as the 3-months-set-period by the commander-in-Chief, President Yoweri Museveni for the national army to remove guns from the armed criminals in the sub region has so far seen little success.
So far 88 guns have been recovered out of the estimated 500 illegal firearms in Karamoja, says the Division Commander, Brig. Joseph Balikudembe who has led the two-fold disarmament that includes, voluntary and cordon and search operations.
Balikudembe said on Friday that the general security situation in the sub region was calm and peaceful, although there were some incidents of raids and killings, across Karamoja.
“The security situation in Karamoja is calm and normal,” said Balikudembe. “We have issues to do with cattle thefts and cattle raids in Napak, Moroto, Kaabong and Kotido but other areas are peaceful. These thefts are manageable. Since we made some changes in deployments and adjustments, we have seen a reversal and this is a gradual process that we shall see peace in Karamoja.”
He noted that since they began disarmament on 19 July, the 88 that have so far been recovered were got through voluntary approach coupled with cordon and search operations conducted in the kraals suspected to have illegal guns.
As for voluntarilly recovered guns, Moroto tops the list followed by Kotido and Kaabong while the rest of the districts have handed in at least one gun, according to Brigadier Balikudembe.
Gen. Peter Elwelu, the Deputy Chief of Defence Forces who is in the sub region assessing the progress of the disarmament after government sent more troops and equipment including helicopters, admitted that there was need to go back to the drawing board on how the exercise should proceed.
It has emerged that the armed criminals have ganged up in the bushes having abandoned their homes leaving only women and children in their homes. Reports indicate that such warriors who have become dangerous have been linked to some of the isolated incidents of road ambushes recorded in Kotido and Kaabong in the past.
One of the approaches both the security personnel and political leaders have agreed to is working together in identify persons with the illegal firearms.
But leaders are urging the UPDF to shoot dead the raiders so that the the region can enjoy lasting peace.
However Brig. Balikudembe said they are keen on everyone’s human rights, but the leaders insist the the UPDF should intensify ambushes in order to put criminals out of action.
The armed Karimojong are blamed for the raids across the nine districts, where thousands of head of cattle have been stolen, most of which have never been recovered.
Fitsum Resome Teddla of the Justice and Peace Commission under Moroto Catholic Church says the raids have caused untold suffering to the affected families who have lost their “banks” after being robbed by organized criminals in raids.
To stress the point, Teddla asked those in authority to value each cow at 1 million just to reflect the amount of loss to the community.
The raids in Karamoja have now become for commercial purposes as authorities say the raided cattle are sold off to business people for slaughter and this explains low recovery of stolen cattle. Some veterinary officers have been arrested for giving movement permits to the raiders before they conduct the raids.