The Turkana and Karamojong communities have reaffirmed their commitment to the MoU on cross-border peace signed between Kenya and Uganda to end armed conflict and cattle rustling in the borderlands.
In a peace meeting held in Kobebe Uganda, and attended by government representatives and heads of security agencies from the two countries, the communities promised to support an operation to mop up illicit firearms, which will be spearheaded by the Uganda, People’s Defence Force (UPDF).
In the meeting, attended by a delegation from Turkana County led by Governor Jeremiah Lomorukai and County Commissioner Jacob Ouma, the communities were informed of a resolution of leaders to fully support the disarmament effort and a crackdown on cattle rustling, which was said to be the cause of rising insecurity along the Kenyan border with Uganda.
Kenya and Uganda leaders also agreed on the continued peaceful coexistence of the two communities and sharing of existing resources by pastoralists.
“We ask you with respect to abandon conflict, let go arms in your possession. It is not allowed in Uganda as well as in Kenya. It is a shame that there is conflict and bloodshed between the Turkana and Karamojong, yet we are one people,” said Lomorukai.
The governor stated that Turkana agreed with the directive that no armed pastoralists will cross over to Uganda and asked residents of Turkana to respect the directive.
He informed Turkana pastoralists that his administration had requested the Ugandan administration to allow them to graze their livestock in Uganda because of the drought crisis in Kenya.
He said the challenges facing Turkana were many and needed careful attention and therefore asked residents to embrace peace to enable the county administration focus more on implementing development programmes, rather than waste valuable time addressing perennial conflict along the Kenya-Uganda borderlands.
He added that the Karamojong and the Turkana shared a common ancestry and beseeched the communities to live together in peace, while promising to extend county relief distribution efforts to benefit pastoralists living in Uganda.
He thanked President Yoweri Museveni for letting pastoralists from Turkana move into Uganda in search of water and pasture.
The Governor said the County Government will support all measures by both governments to end banditry, and promised to invest in programmes to improve the livelihood of cross-border communities.
He said the county planned to invest in mega dams in Turkana to benefit pastoralists in the border lands.
The Governor urged the two governments and peace stakeholders to review the success of the Lokiriama Peace Accord and replicate measures in other existing agreements.
Turkana County Commissioner Jacob Ouma, promised to deal with cattle rustlers engaged in violence in the border lands and agreed on joint collaboration on cross-border security to rid the region of illegal firearms.
He said the Government of Kenya was grateful for Uganda for accommodating Kenyan pastoralists and agreed that the generosity made it imperative that the two governments work closely for sustainable peace.
He proposed that the joint security team targets on proliferation of small arms from the region in six months
Moroto Resident District Commissioner Justin Tuko said the meeting was key to reaffirming the two countries’ commitment to the MoU for Cross-border peace and Development signed by President Yoweri Museveni and then President of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta in 2019.
He thanked the pastoralists from the two communities for attending the important meeting to engage in the peace talks and address the causes of insecurity.
UPDF Division Brig. General Joseph Balikuddembe informed the communities that leaders had given security agencies authority to disarm anyone found in possession of an illicit firearm.
“You either decide to be a criminal or a pastoralist. From today, any criminal who will raid cows from anywhere and enter any kraal, the following people will be arrested. Those with guns, bows and arrows, and their collaborators including kraal leaders who keep quiet in the face of crimes,” he said.
He informed leaders from the two communities that a UPDF Operation Usalama kwa Wote, had recovered 620 guns, over 3000 rounds of ammunition and arrested 859 culprits in the Karamoja region.
He revealed that Kenya and Uganda had formed a Joint Defense Committee in October to address issues of cross-border security challenges.
Jie MP Lokii Peter Abrahams insisted the Jie and Turkana communities had to move away from the vicious cycle of violence.
Letea MCA who spoke on behalf of other ward representatives said that peace was a requisite for development, noting that conflict had dragged the region behind on development.
Uganda leaders present included Regional District Commissioners the Karamoja cluster among them John Rex Achilla (Kaabong), Ambrose Onoria (Kotido), Moroto and District woman Member of Parliament Stella Atyang among others.
The Kenyan delegation included Turkana County Police Commandant Mathew Ndanyi, a host of Deputy and Assistant County Commissioners, and other heads of security agencies from the county.
MCAs present included Deputy Speaker Ekuwam Philip Lomuria (Nanam), Apuron Julius Edung (Kalobeyei), Vincent Ekipor (Lokichoggio), Francis Ngimusia (Letea), Lapayo Lomuria Lawrence (Lokiriama/Lorengippi), Samuel Aliwo (Lobokat), nominated members Selina Lokope and Rebecca Epae.
Senior County Government officials accompanying the Governor included County Executive for Public Service, Administration and Disaster Management Jeremiah Namuya, Ag. Chief Officer Office of the Governor Ruth Emanikor, Ag. Director for Peace Geoffrey Apedor, Chief of Staff Yoromoe Peter, and Ag. Director Disaster Risk Management Moses Nawoton, among others.
By Peter Gitonga