Tension has been high in Karamoja Sub-region after Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF) intensified its operations to recover illegal guns that are being used by cattle rustlers.
On Thursday last week, a combined force of about 500 armed rustlers from the districts of Moroto, Kotido and Napak raided their counterparts in Kaabong District and stole about 800 head of cattle .
The UPDF used a military aircraft and intercepted the rustlers at the Turkana border point. Twelve guns and stolen animals were recovered. Two UPDF soldiers were reportedly injured and several rustlers were killed.
The renewed cattle raids between the different ethnic groups started in September last year after suspected cattle rustlers from Kotido raided a kraal in Kobebe in Moroto, stealing 85 cattle.
Some of herdsmen interviewed by Daily Monitor said they now prefer keeping their livestock at protected kraals manned by UPDF soldiers.
"Our livestock and lives are safer in the kraals protected by soldiers because in our family kraals, we don't have security," Mr John Chilla, the chairperson of Nakapeliimoru Sub-county in Kotido, said.
The UPDF 3rd Division spokesperson, Maj Peter Mugisa, said they have deployed various modes of operation to get rid of illegal arms and cattle theft in the sub-region.
These include cordon and search, mobile force and civil military techniques, which involve sensitising the locals to voluntarily hand over the guns in their possession.
Maj Mugisa said since January, the UPDF have recovered 68 guns, killed 195 cattle rustlers and arrested 293. He also said three UPDF soldiers and two LDUs lost their lives in operation.
"We have recovered ammunition of different types and 8,484 animals have so far been stolen by the rustlers," he said.
It is reported that ethnic groups engaging in cattle raids are being armed by their counterparts in the neighbouring countries such as Kenya and South Sudan.
The common ethnic groups in the Karamoja Sub-region include Matheniko (Moroto), Bokora (Napak), Dodoth (Kaabong), Jie (Kotido), Labwor (Abim), Pokot (Amudat) , and Pian (Nakapiripirit).
During the government disarmament programme in Karamoja that took place 10 years ago (2001 to 2010) more than 40,000 illegal arms were recovered from locals.
However, residents now say some of the ringleaders of the raiders hire guns from the Local Defence Units.
But Maj Mugisa denied the allegations.