Turkana leaders offer Museveni 250 cows for 5 slain Ugandans

Turkana Governor Jeremiah Lomorukai (wearing glasses, seated), who led the Kenyan delegation to Uganda, and Uganda's State Minister for Energy and Mineral Development Peter Lokeris (seated third right), head of the Ugandan delegation, in Moroto on January 5, 2024, after discussing Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni's executive order.

Photo credit: Sammy Lutta | Nation Media Group

Turkana leaders have appealed to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to accept 250 cows they will mobilise from pastoralists as compensation for three geologists from Uganda's Ministry of Energy and two officers from the Ugandan People's Defence Forces who were killed by cattle rustlers in Moroto District in March 2022.

The five were mapping minerals in northern Uganda when they were attacked by the rustlers, who later took two guns from the deceased soldiers.

The guns were later recovered in a joint security operation by Kenyan and Ugandan officers, but the killers are still at large despite an executive order issued by President Museveni in May last year ordering the Kenyan government to extradite the killers for trial on murder charges, compensate affected families warning that he would expel Turkana pastoralists from the country if leaders don't comply within a six-month ultimatum.

At a joint meeting in Moroto town on Thursday and Friday, where leaders from Turkana County led by Governor Jeremiah Lomorukai and hosts from Karamoja region led by State Minister for Energy and Mineral Development Peter Lokeris met to discuss the executive order, it was noted that compensation in the form of cows was seen as a viable and acceptable way to restore mutual relations between the border pastoralist communities and the two countries.

"We proposed that the Turkana community is willing to mobilise 250 head of cattle to compensate the families. Through compensation, which is an alternative option in the executive order, the Turkana community is showing remorse to the families who lost their loved ones and the desire to restore good relations and peaceful coexistence," said Mr Lomorukai.

The governor said that although the six-month ultimatum expired in November last year, issues of security are the preserve of the national government authorities as mandated by the Constitution of Kenya.

"Investigations are ongoing and the Kenyan authorities are committed to ensuring that the criminals who killed five Ugandans are brought to justice no matter how long it takes. As leaders, we appeal to President Museveni to exercise his presidential prerogative of mercy and pardon the Turkana pastoralists who have been arrested and detained in connection with various cases, including the killing of the geologists," he said.

Resolving border tensions

Turkana County Chairman Christopher Nakuleu urged President Museveni to find ways of resolving border tensions without necessarily exploring the legal framework.

"The communities have common cultural ties and if issues can be resolved amicably without going to court, the social fabric of the communities will remain stronger," he explained.

Mr Lokeris pointed out that the Ugandan government had taken disarmament in the Karamoja region seriously as a way of ensuring the safety of residents, but when Turkana pastoralists cross in search of pasture and water during drought, they are usually armed.

"Part of the executive order is that no Turkana pastoralist should be allowed to enter Uganda with a gun, and I emphasise that there is no need for them to cross the border with guns because they are facilitating insecurity. Tell them to leave their guns in Kenya when they come because they will be violating our laws," the Ugandan minister said.

The Turkana leaders strongly assured their counterpart that they were committed to ensuring that no Turkana pastoralist enters Uganda armed by sensitising them at the kraal level.

Noting that the executive order has far-reaching implications and has negatively affected peaceful inter-communal coexistence, free movement of pastoralists, trade relations and livelihoods along the border, they jointly appealed to President Museveni to review and amend the order in favour of the border communities.

The appeal was made because Karamoja and Turkana communities share ancestral, cultural and historical ties as well as similar socio-economic livelihoods that have enabled them to co-exist peacefully while sharing grazing water and other resources in the region.

Executive order

Mr Joseph Lokaale of Ng'ibanga Kraal in Matakul village in Turkana West Sub County said that after Uganda began implementing the executive order, most of the more than 25,000 people who had settled in Napak, Moroto, Kotido and Kaabong districts for grazing and with the Kobebe Dam in Moroto as their main source of water, were forced to flee back to Kenya.

"Despite inadequate pasture and water, we fled back to Kenya because of the growing tension in Uganda. Peaceful coexistence with our counterparts deteriorated following the executive order and arrests and detentions for illegal possession of firearms and ammunition," said Mr Lokaale.

He hopes that President Museveni will heed the pleas of the leaders to allow them back into Uganda, promising to form groups of responsible people for grassroots peace dialogues and to identify criminal elements and report them to the authorities for sustainable peace.