The Karamoja Problem: What Next? By Chero Emmanuel
Karamoja has been registering increasing cases of cattle and livestock thefts for two weeks now. The tension around the Kobebe grazing cattle corridor is worrying. Apart from a raid in Kobebe yesterday, December 4, 2023, the Jie-Turkana and Jie-Turkana battles continued. The Matheniko-Pian incidents, too, are on the rise.
In one week alone so far, Turkana has attempted to raid Jie cows. Matheniko traders were killed by suspected wrong elements from Jie while on their way to a Kenyan market. Killers of the two businessmen from Nadunget were tracked from the Kenyan border on the Turkana side into Kotido with the help of a survivor. Peace committees in Kotido acknowledge that indeed, one of the raiders from Najie was shot dead in a failed attempt to raid Turkana in Kenya.
It is suspected that the murder of businessmen was by the retreating group. Meanwhile, suspected Matheniko criminals have terrorised Nabilatuk. By yesterday, the Peace Committees of Matheniko had helped the Pian recover exhibits around Lotisan. Chero Emmanuel, a UNODA A certified security expert who also doubles as the chairman for Karamoja Youth, the Vision 2040 Agenda condemns the persisting insecurity situation in the region. He calls upon the UPDF to intensify intelligence-led operations and to desist from communal punishments.
There is a need for early warning security, kraal-level intelligence systems, recruitment, training, and deployment of an early response support unit (ERSU) of 30 reformed youth per sub-county under UPDF, or Police Command, in order to augment UPDF and Police, including having 18 police officers per sub-county and three motorcycles, and the deployment of military (UPDF) detachments at strategic locations, Chero says. He also emphasises UPDF-UPF CIMIC-Community Policing.
He says, It is crucial to peace in Karamoja. The UPDF and UPF, in partnership with the local leaders at all levels (both formal and informal), should operate mobile clinics, work alongside communities in joint construction projects, and engage in labor-intensive public works. The concept of one health for both humans and livestock should be taken up, among other joint activities. He adds that UPDF and UPF should adhere to the presidential directive of toll-free phone line tip-off centres that can be monitored by security services who can investigate and/or rapidly respond to security incidents as they occur or even before they occur.
By building rapport and positive relationships with community members, security forces and services will be able to map out criminal networks, their command structures, track their finances, logistics, and smuggling routes, as well as establish who is buying or trading in stolen livestock, smuggled arms, and munitions in the neighbouring settlements. Chero added. He said that Karamoja today is a land of promise. a region bursting with great potential
If the economic planners and key decision makers get it right this time with the new 10-year Karamoja Regional Development Plan, the people of the region are promising themselves that they and their sub-region will no longer be net recipients of food aid, as objects of pity and subjects of charity. But it will instead be one of the key levers that will propel Uganda to a higher middle-income status. Like the probarbital’stone that the builders neglected but later turned to be the corner’s stone’, Chero said. Deep in his heart, Emmanuel Chero is so pertinent about reformed warriors and disadvantaged youth.
They should be registered for inclusion in livelihood programmes. They should come first. This group has demonstrated in the recent past that if they are ignored and develop programmes that bypass them, they have the capacity to pull everything down and reverse the gains of disarmament and development efforts.
To ensure that Karamoja’s new development trajectory is broad-based and does not backslide by excluding vulnerable youth who reside in ‘Ngireria and Ngawuyoi’, a new approach must be taken to document and register all former warriors and at-risk youth using existing ‘Erre, Awui’ structures as well as parish development committees to identify, recruit, and train Reformed Warriors (out of school youths and their immediate families), who, for their lack of education, employable skills, and access to credit, are unable to meaningfully participate.