KAMPALA: President Museveni has set up camp in Eastern and North Eastern region to lead joint security operations against Karamojong cattle rustlers.
Museveni on Wednesday night held a meeting of security chiefs who are coordinating efforts to nip in the bud the threat of re-insurgence of cattle-rustlers in Karamoja Region.
The rustlers have since changed raid tactics in a network that involves criminals with guns, bows and arrows, stick-squads that drive the cows and corroborators (spy network).
The resurgence of violence has left a trail of death, rape and destruction, threatening the peace and security in the region.
The security situation in Karamoja has affected the neighbouring regions of Teso, Bugisu, Sebei and caused a spill over in Kenya.
President Museveni commended security forces in the region for their concept of a reaction force and Intelligence-led operations to curb cattle rustling including profiling suspects.
In an earlier similar security meeting held a Morulinga state Lodge in Napak on 12th September 2021, the President had directed formation of kraal based intelligence, reaction forces per district backed by enablers and 24-hour reconnaissance by day and night.
“We thought this could react and destroy raiding parties and abort their missions. However, cattle rustling is now commercial, when people steal cows, they want to sell them for slaughter. There are not many roads here, mount roadblocks so that they are intercepted,” he told security chiefs at the State Lodge in Kapchorwa on Wednesday.
The President said with increasing crimes including murder and rape, police must establish rapid response units per sub-county to address the situation.
“Even without enough manpower, we can deal with that problem. The bigger man-power, the bigger wage bill! We can’t build roads and other infrastructure if we have to deal with cattle thieves,” he said.
On the issue of guns in the region, the President directed security chiefs in Bugisu, Sebei and Teso regions to deal with the internal problem of using guns in cattle rustling.
Museveni believes this will be the lasting solution to end cattle rustling among Ugandans and across in the neighbouring countries and asked security to intensify the effectiveness of hunting for guns to disarm rustlers.
“The issue of guns in Kenya and South Sudan should not concern us. The problem is internal. Because if you try to tie our internal security problem with what happens in the neighbouring countries, we shall never get peace,” Museveni said, adding that the Ugandan side of West Nile that is connected to the border of Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan and also Western Uganda have no such issues because the Ugandan people at those borders don’t support it.
He argued that the tribes in Kenya don’t raid each other because of the effectiveness of the police in those countries.
“And as you say, within Kenya, they don’t raid one another because of the effectiveness of the police. It’s effective there that’s why they don’t raid among themselves. We need the same seriousness on this side,” Gen Museveni said.
Raids into Kenya: This was after the 3rd Division commander, Brig Gen Joseph Balikuddembe informed President Museveni that the problem starts with armed Ugandan rustlers crossing over to raid from neighbouring countries.
Brig Balikuddembe gave an example of the criminal elements from Uganda like the Jie of Kotido, the Dodoth of Kaabong who normally cross over to Kenya especially Nakitong’o areas of Turkana West Sub-County and Orumu and they raid cows frequently.
“The Turkana carry out revenge attacks, the number of times that our people crossed to raid. Otherwise, if our people don’t cross over to raid, then the Turkana will not raid us, even the Pokot, but the problem starts with our people here who raid amongst themselves and after crossing over to the other side,” Brig Gen Balikuddembe said.
Vigilance : The Vice President Major (Rtd) Jessica Alupo Epel who hails from Teso region called for more vigilance along the borders to prevent gun wielding rustlers.
“We had almost believed we had put a complete stop to this challenge until raiders crossed into Teso in increased numbers with guns and arrows, a departure from earlier raids. We registed deaths and rape in a long time and almost registered internal displacements. It was a very alarming situation” Alupo said.
The new concept, according to Brig Gen Joseph Balikuddembe, targets four (4) groups in these raids; including criminals with guns, those with bows and arrows, those with sticks to drive the cows, and collaborators who are in different districts but connected and linking up with the rustlers.
He said in their simultaneous operations, they identified profiled youthful criminal elements in some sub counties and many were arrested.
“Within the screening that started on 16th may 2022, we recovered 22 guns within one week from the suspects that we arrested, the second week, we recovered 35 guns, the third week which we are almost completing, we have 26 guns,” Brig Gen Balikuddembe said, adding that, the concept has completely seen the recent reduction of cattle thefts and raids in Karamoja.
He said many of the suspects are found in the manyattas (homesteads), in the grazing areas and trading centres where these criminals normally drink from.
“If you go to Karamoja now, some people will tell you that they don’t need this operation, others are welcoming this concept and again the same people who were complaining say they need dialogue to end cattle rustling,” Brig Gen Balikuddembe said.
The Deputy Chief of Defence Forces Lt Gen Peter Elwelu noted the need to bring on board “Fortune Tellers”, who he said are lead consultants in cattle rustling with powers to curse and bless rustlers.
He said according to the Internal Security Organisation – ISO, the group has a total membership of around 700 people who gather in a place called Morukajole in Nakapiripirit district where they perform their rituals.
“The Kajamajong believe a lot in spirituality and in these people of theirs. So, we need to know them and make them understand the need for peace in Karamoja,” Gen Elwelu told the President who promised to handle the matter through the office of the Prime Minister.
The President will today Thursday June 9, meet regional leaders from Bugisu, Sebei and Teso alongside the security apparatus before heading to Otuke in Lango region and later to Moroto in Karamoja in an operation aimed at sweeping out pockets of re-emerging rustlers.
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