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Museveni directs UPDF to control Karamoja vigilantes

[Uganda] Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni
We must therefore depart from a softer approach and take a decisive one. This criminal game must end now" (Office of the President of Zimbabwe)

President Yoweri Museveni has directed Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF) commanders to take charge of Local Defence Units (LDUs) operating in Katakwi District, eastern Uganda, and the neighbouring Karamoja subregion, 'The New Vision' government-owned daily reported. Museveni was quoted as saying that LDUs (paramilitary forces) and vigilante groups in Karamoja should be controlled by the UPDF command structure. "The vigilantes in Karamoja are misbehaving because they are not being controlled," Museveni said. "Those vigilantes could easily be controlled if the commanders were doing their work," he added.

Karamoja vigilantes were reportedly involved in an attack on 13 September by Karamojong cattle raiders on a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) at Ngarium, Katakwi District. The chairman of Ngarium IDP camp, James Ocuwai, was quoted as saying by 'New Vision' that a sub-county vigilante commander for Nabilatuk had led the attack in which 17 people were killed and some 500 head of cattle stolen.

Speaking during a visit to Ngarium, Museveni added that the locations of some LDU camps posed a security risk to the IDPs they were intended to protect. He directed the deputy commanding officer of the UPDF in Katakwi, Lt-Col John Kasaija, to ensure that LDU posts were located at least 500 metres from the IDP settlements. Humanitarian sources told IRIN that many IDP camps in the north and east of Uganda had been constructed around LDU posts, meaning that IDPS were acting as a shield for the LDUs against attacks, rather than the LDUs protecting IDPs.

The Ugandan government has been criticised by MPs for failing to disarm the Karamojong. The Ugandan government initially provided arms to small groups of "home guards" within Karamoja, to enable the population defend itself against raids from other pastoralist groups in the region, notably from the Pokot in neighbouring Kenya, humanitarian sources told IRIN. A state of emergency was on 6 August declared by the council of Katakwi District, where over 80,000 people are forced to remain in camps for IDPs as a result of the raids. [for background information see separate IRIN story of 1 August, headlined "Karamojong force 80,000 into IDP camps"].

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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