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Security Forces Defend Arrest of Reformed Cattle Rustlers in Karamoja

Brig Gen Joseph Balikudembe, the UPDF 3rd Division Commander said that some suspects who pretend to surrender guns peacefully have got a big following of raiders and setting them free becomes a mockery to the security forces. He says that several raiders who surrendered guns to the security forces have been re-arrested with more guns despite possessing amnesty certificates.
Brig Gen Joseph Balikudembe the 3rd division commander during an interview with URN at UPDF 3rd division offices

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The joint security forces in Karamoja are arresting and detaining suspected cattle rustlers who hand over their firearms voluntarily, despite criticism from both leaders and the community.

The arrests are in contravention of a government call to Karamojong warriors to voluntarily hand over illegal firearms so they can be granted amnesty and benefit from government programs. But security forces have defended the arrests saying one of the arrested persons was a serial murderer who should further be investigated before setting him free.

Brig Gen Joseph Balikudembe, the UPDF 3rd Division Commander said that some suspects who pretend to surrender guns peacefully have got a big following of raiders and setting them free becomes a mockery to the security forces. He says that several raiders who surrendered guns to the security forces have been re-arrested with more guns despite possessing amnesty certificates.

According to Balikudembe, one of the suspects, only identified as Achucu, who was the first to surrender his two guns was granted amnesty and was working with security to lure his colleagues to come out of the bush. However, he ended up being re-arrested in possession of more than four guns.

‘’...When we forgave him he thought the game was over, so finally, we trapped him and he is in the prison serving ten years,’’ Balikuddembe said adding that some of the warriors have been carrying out deadly attacks with the view that after gaining they can surrender guns and stay free, yet they committed crimes.

He says they have also learnt that people who voluntarily handed over their guns have not left criminality and should be interrogated properly before they are awarded amnesty certificates.

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Kotido Resident District Commissioner Ambrose Onoria says that detaining suspects who voluntarily hand over their guns will frustrate the effort to recover the remaining rifles from the hands of the wrong elements.

Onoria says the only working approach to recover the illegal guns was through engaging the warriors and assuring them of their security when they come out of the jungle to embrace peace. He said they are already registering positive results following their engagement with the cattle raiders and it’s unfortunate that the forces are disrupting their activities.

‘’The approach of talking to these raiders had started yielding results, but now when the forces start detaining them, then they are putting our lives in danger because at the end the blame will come on to us who lured them to be arrested,’’ Onoria lamented.

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John Lokuda, the chairperson of the Peace Committee in Apeitolim sub-county said the message was clear that when one gives a gun voluntarily he or she is entitled to amnesty and benefits from government programs. He fears that security is more likely to mess up with the exercise.

Some of these warriors want peace, they feel like surrendering their guns but are still sceptical, the ‘’approach of engaging them slowly was the best, now if they think they can apply force then we can step back and let them continue if it’s easy,’’ he said.

John Robert Adupa, the LCIII chairperson of Lotisan sub-county said that if the army has resolved to apply force, the rest of the leaders will pull out of all other processes. Adupa said several guns have been recovered through peaceful means, an indication that the warriors need more engagement than force.

He said the security forces should declare the disarmament forceful so that they can let them move on rather than using voluntary means as a way of capturing the warriors.

Security teams reported that more than 200 guns have been recovered in the month of June and July following their energized operations against cattle rustlers.