JUNE 1, 2010: Disarming Warriors Has Been a Tough Job

Disarming Warriors Has Been a Tough Job
SOURCE: The Monitor
By Felix Kulayigye

We shall not wait for Karamoja to develop!" This derogatory remark was always used on anyone slow in action or in thinking, when we were growing up. This remark was first made by a former president of this country. It is little wonder therefore that even when attempts were made to address the insecurity in Karamoja, towns were erased to the ground in the name of disarmament.

Indeed, because the population in Karamoja had gotten used to no state authority but state brutality; when the NRA entered Karamoja, it was baptised by fire. Interestingly, over time that has grown into overwhelming support for the President who not only has a programme specifically for Karamoja region, but has consistently put its issues high on the national agenda.

Many developments have taken place in Karamoja in sectors like roads, education, health as well as a thriving economic sector and blessed by the presence of the law and order sector. These developments have been boosted by the dedicated Minister for Karamoja Affairs, Janet Museveni.

A visit to Karamoja will reveal a presence of government departments, hither to unheard of. In fact, a posting to the region would qualify the individual a hazard allowance, leave alone others who opted to forfeit their jobs than go to Karamoja. These developments are not accidental and the government cannot take them for granted. True, it is government responsibility to ensure security but where was government before 1986.

With regard to the military operations to disarm the warriors, it has been a challenging job. To this we pledge to do better. On allegations of violations of human rights, the UPDF may be sacrificed on the altar of political opportunism and more so to be a sacrificial lamb for those that may be desperate for continuous financial in flows from donors. Some examples may illustrate our point. In 2003, accusations were levelled against the army, yet a parliamentary committee found no iota of truth in them? In 2007, Human Rights Watch alleged that the UPDF had driven APCs over 66 children. Shockingly, there were no graves to prove their case, but no action was taken against this group by our 'dictatorial government'.

Recently, an MP accused the army to have killed 40 civilians in Kotido, yet the number of people killed in that incident was 10. It is our wish that nobody is killed in these operations, that is why the Chief of Defence Forces Gen. Aronda Nyakairima ordered an investigation. It should be noted that the Army's sole role in Karamoja is to restore peace and protect civilians from the marauding armed criminals.

We want to assure Ugandans and our people in Karamoja in particular, that we don't intend to abandon our cherished tradition of respecting civilians. We are a product of peoples' anger against state-inspired terrorism so it can't be the same UPDF to turn around and distort her reputation. Kotido residents are not living in fear as was reported by certain individuals.

While some leaders paraded Mzee Aramatori Lokodo as a Ugandan, we found out that he was a notorious Kenyan warrior chief and all the reports of discrimination that have been made in regard to him are falsehoods spearheaded by opportunistic politicians. The UPDF is a Force of the people and peace for law abiding citizens is its utmost objective.

The UPDF would like to reaffirm that peace will prevail in Karamoja very soon. We want to warn to those individuals or organisations to stop malicious and false accusations but should get their facts right since we are always available to provide information. UPDF still stands to defend, protect and serve its people.

Lt. Col. Kulayigye is the UPDF spokesman