MAY 30, 2010: UPDF is in Karamoja to Protect Civilians

UPDF is in Karamoja to Protect Civilians
SOURCE: The New Vision
By Lt. Col. Felix Kulayigye

Kampala — Recently, a member of parliament accused the army of having killed 40 civilians in Kotido. This is false because only 10 people were killed in the said incident. That notwithstanding nobody should have been killed, so the army regards this matter seriously.

That is why Gen. Aronda Nyakairima has ordered for a probe into the matter and the army is investigating it.

The army's sole role in the Karamoja region is to restore peace and protect civilians from armed criminals.

We want to assure all Ugandans and the Karimojong that we do not intend, whatsoever, to abandon our long cherished tradition of respecting civilians.

The Uganda Peoples' Defence Forces (UPDF) does not believe in state inspired terrorism and cannot distort her reputation of good service. Kotido residents, therefore, are not living in fear like some politicians allege.

The UPDF restored peace in Karamoja and this is a fact. Before publishing information, the UPDF carries out research and that is how we found out that Mzee Aramatori Lokodo who was paraded by some leaders as a Ugandan was a notorious Kenyan warrior chief.

The UPDF also found out that all the reports of discrimination that have been made in regard to him are falsehoods believed to be said for some unclear motives and spearheaded by opportunistic politicians.

The UPDF is a force of the people. Our utmost objective is to ensure peace for all law abiding citizens. The UPDF warns individuals and organisations that write malicious, alarming and false accusation reports, to always get their facts right. The UPDF is available to provide accurate information.

The UPDF and the NRM Government are here to defend, protect and serve the people. Unlike a former president who made a derogatory statement: "We shall not wait for Karajmoja to develop", for us we believe Karamoja is moving with the rest of the country.

Because the population in Karamoja was used to state brutality and not authority, when the NRA entered Karamoja, the people resisted the forces.

However, overtime the Karimojong have had a change of heart and now appreciate the President's efforts in Karamoja. The Karimojong recognise the fact that specific programmes have been designed to solve the region's problems.

They appreciate that their issues have been placed high on the national agenda. It is gratifying to note that many developments have taken place in the region and these include an improved road sector, education, health and increased economic activities.

Karamoja also now boasts of the presence of law and order. They also have a dedicated minister for Karamoja Affairs, Janet Museveni who is always there. She has embarked on many development programmes for the region.

A visit to Karamoja would attest to the many developments so far achieved. These developments are not accidental and the Government should be credited for them. It is the Government's responsibility to ensure security for people and their property, but we have had many governments before 1986 and very little was done for Karamoja.

With regard to the military operations to disarm the warriors, it has been a challenging job and has taken longer than it should have. This has not pleased the Commander in Chief of the UPDF, but the force pledges to do better.

On allegations of grave violations of Human Rights, the UPDF is being sacrificed at the altar of political opportunism.

Some organisations are desperate for continuous financial in flows from donors and so end up publishing lies about the UPDF, so that they are seen to be working.

For instance, in 2003 damning accusations were levelled against the army. It was reported that the army was brutal and cruel and yet the parliamentary committee of defence and internal affairs found the allegations to be false.

In 2007, an international human rights organisation, Human Rights Watch alleged that the UPDF had driven armed personnel carriers over 66 children, but there were no graves, or skeletons to prove their case. Despite these grave accusations our so-called 'dictatorial government' did not punish this organisation.

The UPDF would like to assure the people of Uganda and Karamoja, that the region will remain peaceful and no human rights report will deter us from serving our people.

The writer is the UPDF spokesman