13 December 2011

Uganda: Army Ends Disarmament Exercise

Nakapiripirit — The army has finally pulled out of the disarmament exercise in Karamoja after 10 years of rigorously pursuing Karimojong warriors to surrender illegal guns.

According to a UPDF report, illegal guns flooded the region in 1979 when Idi Amin's regime was overthrown and soldiers abandoned a major weapons armoury.

The warriors looted the weapons which they later used to carry out cattle rustling and other forms of robbery. The army said the disarmament exercise will restore stability in the cattle-rich region where cattle raids had undermined social-economic and political development.

While handing over a health centre III to the residents of Moruita Sub-county in Nakapiripiriti District at the weekend, Chief of Defence Forces Gen. Aronda Nyakairima said UPDF has now relocated its manpower to address inadequacies in social services, especially in health and education, which are urgently required if Karamoja is to catch up with the development pace of other regions. He said there is stability in the area since a number of people, who were displaced due to insecurity, have been resettled and the army has contained road ambushes and killings with criminals successfully being prosecuted.

"The UPDF intervention in the disarmament is close to the end. The UPDF has successfully recovered over 30,000 guns. With stolen cattle recovery system standing at about 90 per cent, the UPDF can now pull out of the operation and leave the rest of criminal prosecution work to police," Gen. Nyakairima said.

He urged the Karimojong to capitalise on the good relations they have established with the army to enable them recover from the trauma they faced during the operation, saying the UPDF is committed to work with them in the recovery process.

Gen. Nyakairima added that more health centres would be constructed in different areas.

Moruita LC3 chairperson Richard Panyangara said some Karimojong, who had turned cattle rustling into an income source, have now resorted to massive theft of the animals which they transport on tracks to unknown destinations.

Still needed

Mr Panyangara said the UPDF should not completely pull out of the cattle protection operation but stage road blocks on suspected transport routes to limit robbers from accessing any outlets so that cattle rustling can be contained in Karamoja. But according to the 3rd Division spokesperson, Capt. Deo Akiiki, the UPDF will continue tracking cattle raids after the end of the disarmament operations.

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