Uganda Peoples Congress
Uganda Peoples Congress
Plot 8-10 Kampala Road, Uganda House,
P. O. Box 9206, Kampala
A Peaceful Karamoja Is Critical For National Stability
20 August 2006
- Right from colonial times, the Karamoja sub-region has had a raw deal in terms of provision of social services, economic infrastructure and security. The government took no serious effort to transform the negative aspects of the Karamojong culture and to promote their good values. Instead, the Karamojong were left to fend for themselves on the most arid areas of their land while the fertile areas were turned into natural reserves.
- The result of these circumstances were that the Karamojong were marginalized and denied:
- Adequate education and educational facilities.
- Basic elements of modern life like water, health facilities, transport and housing, infrastructure, and organized settlement.
- Protection of their lives and property.
- The Karamojong developed a culture of fending for themselves in this harsh environment. This culture is not conducive to peaceful co-existence within the community and its neighbours both in Uganda and neighbouring countries.
- The post independence government of UPC attempted to address the problems of Karamoja but the rate of progress was interrupted by the military coup detat of 1971. The situation was worsened at the fall of Idi Amin when the Karamojong accessed large quantities of arms and ammunition from Moroto barracks.
- The second UPC government again tried to pacify the sub-region by delivery of vital social and economic services, provision of security through trained government security services and political sensitization. These efforts were beginning to bear fruit when the NRM came to power and reversed the trend.
- Under the two decades of NRM administration, the sub region has been deliberately militarized and brutalized for political expediency.
- When the NRM government realised that the political goals for miltarisation of the sub-region could not be achieved, they reversed gear in favor of forceful disarmament and demobilization.
- The crude exercise of forceful disarmament and demobilization which has been running on and off for the last five years or so has been a dismal failure. Instead the exercise has turned out to be an ogre of human rights abuse.
- This forceful exercise has seen all police stations and posts being taken over by the UPDF. The military has replaced normal judicial organs as the arbiter of disputes including those of a civil nature.
- The present day scenario in the sub-region involves the following:
- Scotched earth policy where communities are surrounded by UPDF who search, torture and often kill the occupants and destroy their properties irrespective of their age and non-possession of arms.
- The arrested are imprisoned at military installations where all their fundamental rights and freedoms are grossly abused.
- Those imprisoned are hurriedly tried before military court martial and sentenced to long jail terms. The trials which normally last less than one hour do not afford the accused any of the constitutional rights to a fair hearing including the right to legal representation and to call witnesses. In June 2006 alone, 350 people were sentenced and transferred from Moroto Barracks to Luzira prison, to serve jail terms ranging from 7 to 18 years.
- In spite of this gruesome treatment of the Karamajong, the Karamajong community is still insecure and traumatized, leading to thousands of displaced Karimajong throughout Uganda. The situation in the neighbouring sub-regions of Kapchorwa, Bugisu, Teso, Lango and Acholi has not improved or even stabilized either.
- Instead, it is evident that the Karimojong having been isolated and mistreated are preparing to respond to the state inspired violence in equal measure. This will most likely result into another war frontier.
- As the nation looks to the Juba talks for peace, it is imperative that all other areas of Uganda susceptible to armed conflict, starting with the Karamoja sub-region be attended to seriously.
- The problem of Karamoja has to be appreciated as a national one, rooted in government's failure to understand the roots of the problem. Specific economic, social and political programmes need to be drawn as a matter of urgency to address these problems.
- The failure to solve the Karamoja problem will negate any positive results of the Juba Peace Talks since the country will remain without peace.
For God and my Country
Miria Kalule Obote