Ugandan army accused of seizing Pokot cattle

The Standard, 6 September 2012: The Ugandan Army has allegedly seized 72 head of cattle belonging to Kenyan Pokots during a security operation to recover illegal guns.

The operation also seeks to end cross border cattle raids near the Kenya/Uganda border.

Sikom Network for Peace and development chairman Joseph Akoule claimed that heavily armed Uganda Peoples Defense Forces (UPDF) soldiers raided Bukwo Sub County where Pokots migrated to graze and impounded the cattle.

The soldiers are demanding that Pokot return cattle they allegedly stole from the Sabiny herders.

They also want them to surrender illegal firearms they are using to engage in criminal activities.

“The impounding of the cattle has raised tension along the border and we urge the government to intervene,” said Akoule.

The UPDF soldiers took military action after a group of suspected cattle thieves stole three cows and one donkey owned by the Sebei in Bukwo District near the Kenya –Uganda border.

Akoule said the cattle are being held at Bukwo Army Barracks and expressed fear that the animals could also starve to death in the army camp.

‘We oppose the seizure of the cattle belonging to innocent pastoralists and the action will fuel hatred and hostilities between the security forces and the affected communities,” he said.

During a peace forum at Kacheliba village near the Kenya /Uganda border, Akoule called on the Kenyan authorities to intervene urgently and have the animals released to their owners.

Pokot North District Commissioner Abdirizack Jalpesa said the Government was aware of the seizure and had already contacted their counterparts in Uganda on the same.

“Security teams from both countries have agreed to meet next week Friday to resolve all the issues concerning insecurity along our common border,” he said.

The human rights activist asked the soldiers to search for the culprits and arrest them to face prosecution and stop harassing and arbitrary arrest of innocent pastoralists.

Over 5,000 Kenyans herders with 100,000 cattle migrated to the neighbouring country due to prolonged drought on the Kenyan side.

The herders from Pokot North and Pokot Central district left Kenya late last year in search of food, pasture and water for their livestock and settled in Bukwo , Nakapiripirit  and Amudat districts of Uganda.

The Ugandan Army has been conducting a massive disarmament programme that started four years ago in the larger Karamojong region on the Eastern side of Uganda.

It has so far recovered over 40 000 illegal guns blamed for rampant cross border cattle raids and armed conflict along the common border.

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