KAABONG. The Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) 3rd Division based in Kaabong District has recovered 12 more guns from Local Defence Unit (LDUs) deserters and cattle rustlers under their ongoing campaign dubbed ‘Salama Kwawoote’.
The guns were received on Friday last week by the 3rd Division commander, Brig Joseph Balikuddembe, in the presence of Minister for Karamoja Affairs Mary Goretti Kitutu and her junior Agnes Nandutu, and other district leaders.
Ten out of the 12 recovered guns were from LDU deserters and the two from ruslters.
While receiving the weapons, Brig Balikuddembe said they resumed the disarmament campaign in July with the aim to reduce insecurity in Karamoja Sub-region, which has seen an escalation in cattle rustling, especially at the border districts.
“So far, we have recovered 10 guns out of 20 which were taken by the deserting LDUs, and we hope the remaining LDUs will bring back the guns like their colleagues have done.
Mr Balikuddembe added that the guns have been used in terrorising the community and neighbouring countries, and that they need to mobilise people in the community to desist from criminality.
“I urge the community not to leave the responsibility of keeping peace to the army lone because we have to collaborate with the communities,” he said.
He added that whereas the UPDF now uses modern equipment to hunt down criminals, they cannot do it without support from the community.
“We started this campaign in July and we have so far recovered 64 guns from LDU deserters and cattle rustlers, especially from Karamoja Sub-region region.
“We ask the communities to surrender any illegal guns in peace because when they do this, government will rehabilitate and provide them with relief items, including food, iron sheets and some cash,” he said.
Brig Balikiddembe noted that locals have confessed that Kaabong District has been peaceful for last three weeks, and that this means they have to put in more efforts to preserve that peace.
During the handover of the weapons to the authorities, the LDU deserters were accompanied by their relatives, who pledged to support them in the process of resettlement.
Ms Nandutu said as she left Kampala for Kaabong, she had been told that the district was a hotspot for cattle rustling in Karamoja Sub-region, and that is why she started from there.
“We started from the grassroots talking to the Karimojong warriors and within few days, we started getting several report from the LDUs who had deserted and run away with the guns, saying that they had got the message of peace,” she said.
Ms Nandutu asked the people of Karamoja to return illegal guns peacefully before the army starts a search.
“…if you return the guns peacefully, you get amnesty and the government is ready to provide you with some relief items for resettlement,” she said.
The Kabong District chairperson, Mr Meri Jino, said in August, about 20 LDUs deployed to protect cattle kraals and deserted the force and ran away with the guns.