By Steven Enatu
The National Youth Council delegates have called on government to impose appropriate measures in disarming the armed cattle rustlers in the region to bring the long awaited desired peace.
They raised this during the National Youth Council Meeting held at Soroti Senior Secondary School Hall yesterday 1st September 2021 for the three regions of Karamoja, Teso and Lango.
The young leaders from the three regions who had gathered to discuss challenges that affect them as young people and forge wayward couldn’t leave the meeting without having their ideas and views expressed about the continuous insecurity in Karamoja region and its neighboring districts.
Ernest Ayen, the youth chairperson Abim District says that insecurity in Karamoja is one thing that is always talked about when it’s tense and it has become a song. She accuses government of failing to come up with a permanent solution.
“We have grown up when there was insecurity in Karamoja and its still on and the question is why does the government ask these questions when they have failed to take solutions they have suggested before,” he said.
Ayen says that as young people they suggest that the government should go deep in understanding what is causing the cattle raiding and killing in Karamoja region and its neighboring districts.
According to Ayen, Karamoja is an impoverished region where many youths have not gone to school and with hunger people are looking for survival in all aspects.
He said that in its attempt to disarm the armed cattle rustlers in the region, it did not come up with a clear strategy on alternative livelihood after surrendering guns.
It’s upon this ground that Ayen believes that many got back their guns and are now continuing from where their ancestors stopped.
“And I think when they failed to put that in place, these people got back their guns and now continue from where their ancestors stopped because they knew their ancestors lived a better life with the guns and if they surrender no hope,” he said.
He acknowledges the effort of government and private sectors in trying to create change in the region however Ayen says the number of NGO’s and programs in Karamoja does not matter but what they are doing. He says the region needs programs that fit the region’s problems, for example in Agriculture, to be sustainable than the life of the organizations.
“We need programs that the communities can sustain for themselves, not what they provide today and when it stops, it ends there. If it’s Agriculture, what are they going to address for example? They should not come and teach people vegetable growing using their water pumps and when they leave, that’s the end of such,” he stressed out.
Patrick Ochen, the youth Councilor of Oyam district says that Karamoja region needs involvement of two ministries of Gender and Security to manage the issue of insecurity in the region resulting from armed cattle rustlers.
He said the Ministry of Gender is paramount in the region to do mindset change whereas the ministry of Security and defense to do peaceful disarmament of armed cattle rustlers.
Ochen also suggests the involvement of youth leaders and elders in what they are calling peer to peer model to do mindset change to their fellow young people whom he says are the major armed category doing the cattle rustling activities.
Emmis Lomoge Lokol youth councilor for Kaabong and also the finance secretary says that the region has been experiencing escalating insecurity in the region for the last three months majorly caused by cattle rustlers who are mostly young people.
To Lokol, this has been caused by commercialization of raided animals which according to him is being accelerated by the security officers.
He says that whenever the raided cattle are impounded in the region, the security officers just speak on phone with key political leaders and eventually the animals are sold in unclear ways.
This, according to the young leader, has encouraged the rustlers to go and buy guns from the porous borders to reinforce their numbers when they want to go and raid.
He said the government should involve the young people in dialoguing with the uneducated youth in the villages which he says is a major category involved in causing insecurity in the region through cattle rustling.
“There was a project way back in 2010 that was handled by a mercy corps called building bridges. The warriors in Kaabong, Kotido, and Turkana were brought to one central place together speaking to them trying to divert their by mindset and it was working but now the current ongoing peace meetings are full of theories that are not applicable on ground,” he said.
Lokol also suggested that the government should compensate the young people who voluntarily surrender their guns by constructing houses for them and giving them alternative livelihood.
“In the past the government had promised 20 iron sheets to those who voluntarily surrender their guns and also put in some groups to survive. What pains us more is the killings, we had a scenario where the warriors were killing people who ride blue motorcycles donated by an organization to the peace groups and it happened in Moroto with a perception that these are people who report them. As young people we are really looking for an avenue of going deep to the villages, these are our people we know, we meet with them in social gathering, these are guys who know us, we just need to train the few courageous ones in intelligence and whenever one is cited, we just have a peaceful approach” he said.
Harriet Agwang the female youth councilor Soroti City says that the government and other non-governmental organizations need to sensitize and establish a skilling center in the region to engage young people. This she said will enable the mindset change in the region.
The police and army recently launched the second phase of the disarmament exercise in Karamoja following the continuous raiding and killings in the region. The first disarmament was done in 2002 and a window of peace was ushered for at least 10 years but the merry go round situation began afresh.