Kenyan herders who had moved to Northern Uganda in search of water and pasture for their livestock during drought are now targeted for disarmament and vaccination.
The Uganda Peoples’ Defence Forces (UPDF) together with police, seized 31 guns and 752 rounds of ammunition from Turkana pastoralists on Saturday during an operation in Moroto District, Uganda, where they settled and were planning to cross back to Kenya following the onset of rains.
Pastoral communities, who included the Turkana from Kenya and the Karamajong from Uganda, had in November last year promised to support a UPDF operation to mop up illicit firearms from the region.
The commitment was made at a peace meeting attended by government representatives and heads of security agencies from the two countries, among them Turkana Governor Jeremiah Lomorukai.
The UPDF 3rd Division’s commander, Brig Gen Joseph Balikuddembe, had raised concern that some Kenyan pastoralists cross into Uganda while illegally armed and flee whenever there is a planned disarmament.
In an interview with the Daily Monitor Brig Balikuddembe termed the operation to seize the illicit weapons as the largest single operation in recent times that also led to the seizure of 19 bows and arrows in Lokereyot village, Nadunget sub-county, about 50kms from Moroto town.
"It was a well-executed operation after intelligence leads indicated that the kraal in the village owned by the Turkana pastoralists was a hideout for guns,” Brig Balikuddembe was quoted saying.
Mr Lomorukai, while thanking Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni's government for accepting to host pastoralists from Kenya with their livestock, had assured the Ugandans that through local administration structures, no Turkana pastoralist seeking pasture or water will cross the border while armed. He asked the Turkana pastoralists to respect the directive.
“Illegal firearms are not accepted in Uganda because they catalyse insecurity. Authorities have assured us that lives and property (livestock) will be protected and therefore there is no need of arming yourselves. Let's all respect peace pacts signed and embrace peaceful coexistence especially now that we are experiencing the worst drought ever," Mr Lomorukai told the pastoralists at Kobebe dam.
UPDF through a joint defence committee that was formed to address cross-border security challenges by pacifying the borderlands through cracking down on illegal guns and ammunition as well as arrest of suspected criminals, called on the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) to closely coordinate the ongoing disarmament.
At the same time, the Turkana County Government has dispatched veterinary officers to ensure livestock coming from Uganda to villages in Turkana West and Loima sub-county are vaccinated and treated.
"Vaccination and supportive treatment of livestock against lumpy skin disease at Lokipoto area of Turkana West Sub-County has already been rolled out. The veterinary department was aware of livestock migration, especially cattle that have come back from Uganda that must be covered against transboundary livestock diseases to prevent any possibility of its spread to other livestock," said County Director for Veterinary Services, Dr Benson Longor.