While Government has been striving to disarm the pastoralist people of Karamoja, who had turned the region into a “no gone zone” while misusing their firearms, independent presidential candidate, Lt. Gen. Henry Tumukunde has promised to re-militarize them so that they can protect their cattle, once voted into power next year.
Between 1970s and late 1990s, Karamoja sub region was very dangerous as pastoralists who owned fire arms had turned into killers, who intercepted innocent traders, robbed them and killed some.
The guns had also sky rocketed tribal and communal conflicts between the locals themselves.
These growing concerns made the ruling government to undertake a forceful disarmament exercise between 2001 and 2002, where over 10,000 fire arms were collected.
It was estimated that between 30,000 – 40,000 firearms were being held by Karamojong warriors, which prompted the president to re-launch of the exercise in September 2004, after neutralizing the Lord Resistance Army (LRA) rebels. The Disarmament exercise was implemented by the Uganda’s People’s Defense Forces (UPDF).
In in January 2007, the government through the Office of the Prime Minister launched a revised Karamoja Integrated Disarmament and Development Programme with an aim of “Creating Conditions for Promoting Human Security and Recovery in Karamoja, 2007/2008-2009/2010.”
Lt. Gen Tumukunde was by then an active serving officer in UPDF at a rank of a Brigadier.
Tumukunde, who is now challenging President Yoweri Museveni for presidency in the 2021 presidential polls is now criticizing what he calls a poorly planned disarming of Karamojong cattle farmers which he said has rendered the (Karamojong cattle farmers) vulnerable.
While speaking to his supporters in Olutekei town in Kotido district in Karamoja sub region on Tuesday this week, Tumukunde noted that the disarmament exercise rendered Karamojong cattle farmers defenseless when attacked by cattle rustlers.
“You are being disarmed and left under the mercy of the Pokot. I think in my own time, I will create a joint force of militias from your own town and the army and police depending on the intensity of the problem and we shall work together to make sure that we seal off those borders and stop them from raiding our cows,” he said.
To speak this, Tumukunde had commenced his campaign trail in the region, after successfully completing the Lango sub region.
The 2007 OPM integrated Disarmament Programme had goals for the post-disarmed Karamoja, which Tumukunde not only highly criticized, but also gave solutions to, once voted into power.
His goals he said include empowering the Karamojong to harness the potential of their natural resources; securing the land rights of communities in order to encourage sustainable utilization of natural resources, supporting interventions to improve the viability of pastoralism in Karamoja and facilitating the resettlement and rehabilitation of people affected by natural disasters and armed conflicts.
Tumukunde said that locals have been turned into spectators as their minerals are being mined by foreigners on an annual basis.
“I am told that people come and mine your wealth and take it and you get no benefit. We shall make a Law called Local Content law where if you extract anything from an area, you must leave a certain percentage at least per taxation of the government,” he noted.