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Sunday,November 29,2020 10:45 AM

Karamoja, The Land Of An Eye For An Eye

By Vision Reporter

Added 4th August 2003 03:00 AM

THE Uganda Human Rights Commission has stepped up activities in Karamoja restraining more especially the army from shooting or taking vengeance on murder suspects.

THE Uganda Human Rights Commission has stepped up activities in Karamoja restraining more especially the army from shooting or taking vengeance on murder suspects.

By David Enyaku
THE Uganda Human Rights Commission has stepped up activities in Karamoja restraining more especially the army from shooting or taking vengeance on murder suspects.
Word is rife that, the organisation is in the advanced stages of opening up an office in the region after years of operation from Soroti.
However, the population is unhappy that the organisation will and has already interfered with operations there. They cited the recent capture of some notorious road thuggery suspects the army and the local community wanted publicly executed but the organisation blocked.
Many say, the organisation is moving in late after the attitude of revenge has taken root.
Sources in the army concur with the public disclosing that, when warriors kill a soldier or civilians, the organisation applauds them but when they and the public try to revenge, they are dragged into the courts of law, an act the populace has seen as a betrayal by the government.
Karimojong, whose tradition is revenge, feel courts of law do not dispense punishment equivalent to the offence committed. Using their illegal guns, the warriors have courtesy to order the police and the army to hunt down and hand the suspects to them for execution. Failure to do so unarmed civilians face the repercussions.
The trend has taken root in Karamoja. The judiciary can testify to the hardships it faces. Everyone in the region now applauds blood letting in the name of ‘justice.’
The latest execution in Moroto was on May 1, 2003. Jubilation and ululation rocked the town on Labour day not because workers were marking their day but because a ‘civil court martial’ had executed ‘justice’ before the police and the army intervened. Three boys, Lomucele, Lomudu and another suspected to be the killers of Nachap 10, Achia 11 and another all pupils of Lia primary school were murdered.
The young, old, small, big, official or not joined the feast and chanted: “That is good, now we’re at peace. It serves them right and sends a signal to their friends who may want to attempt bloodshed not to.”
True, little peace is registered a few hours after execution because of fear but thereafter after life goes back to normal. To warriors its pride and heroism to die of bullets than desist from killing. Serial killing is what they enjoy most that they find life hard to live without killing at least even a baby. The cycle of revenge continues pronouncing the inter-clan ethnic differences louder.
“Government should accept what we are saying. Each person loves his person. During Amin’s time when killing was authorised, there was peace. Its government letting the community down by taking people to police. Police should only handle the innocent and warn them not to walk with criminals,” asserted a 70-year-old Nangiro Apa Lobok.
Whichever innocence Nangiro says, Karimojong believe life pays for life and as such if accusing fingers point at you that’s it. Once someone commits murder and runs away, one of his relatives has to be killed on his behalf.
Police here is the first casualty. The natives accuse it of releasing criminals into society. They say the culprits should receive pain equal to the one meted out to the victim contrary to the law. The force admits the region is beyond their control.
“Situations vary from place to place. Whatever happens in Mbale or Kampala may not be happening elsewhere. Here we handle the preliminaries. If we intervene, then the situation becomes worse. We only visit the scene of murder without doctors just to order for burial but which burial? The dead are left to wild animals and birds,” says Romano A. Okuja, detective inspector of police, Moroto.
The UPDF as well has the same words. In this particular case, the UPDF tracked down the killer boys thinking it would hand them over to police for public prosecution. The irate mob armed with stones, spears, clubs and the mother of all guns denied them the chance.
They pelted stones at the commander who tried to restrain them forcing him to respond with gunfire, an opportunity the warriors had been craving for in order to overrun the barracks and unleash indiscriminate killing in town.
Aware of what this means through the past experiences and intelligence reports of the heavily armed reinforcement descending the mountain to seal the barracks off, the army took positions. The overall command desperate to save more lives unanimously resolved to hand the suspects over to the wild mob.
The town that had fallen silent in fear the previous evening rejuvenated. Bars opened as the execution joy replaced the Labour Day celebrations that were called off due to murder that had prevailed in the district.
The people were celebrating because the killer had been found. Had they not been got, all people would have been responsible in the eyes of warriors. “It’s time government gave Karimojong rights to solve their cases after all the constitution states that, people’s rights belong to them,” were some of the chants amid bullets shot out of joy.
Moroto town separates the two rival ethnic clans, the Tepeth to which the pupils belonged and the Matheniko where the killers came from. Whenever the two clash, their battlefield is the town centre involving town dwellers.
To avert indiscriminate killing, the UPDF acting on an ultimatum from the warriors to have the suspects arrested in less than 24 hours or else they do it themselves, mounted an operation.
They followed the footsteps from the scene of murder to Rupa sub-county into the home of the suspects who were found still in possession of the guns and who confessed murder marking the end of UPDF/ Police involvement.
The trio (suspects) were led to the scene of murder where their brains were scattered with bullets and stones by women and warriors who sang songs of praise saying they had taken long without killing.
Elders hold the youth responsible for the mayhem in the region. They say generations come with their good and bad but this time this generation is worse.
“In the past, youth took advice from the elders but today, elders are called fools of the old days. If you talk, a gun is pointed at you. The girls do the same to their mothers. We embraced disarmament thinking we would die peaceful but where?” lamented Loman Loru Peter a 53-year-old blind man.
“An eye for an eye will gradually bring peace to Karamoja. If the prayer has come true and they have been arrested, even if they are 100, they should die for both families to mourn. Killing the educated is like removing public eyes,” he said.

Mob justice was not in the hearts of Karimojong before. They paid heavy fines between 60-100 heads of cattle as murder charges. Margaret Lokwakol, an old woman in Moroto town, remembers that, in their days life was respected. She says, one could drink and fall on the way but none would hurt him.
“If the young problematic generation has adopted death for death criteria, let it be followed. You can see all hearts in Moroto were not happy,” she concluded.
Judicial mistrust came up in Karamoja because of Uganda’s British based laws where the complainant has to prove his case leaving serial killers at large due to lack of evidence. The community could not take it any more expecting the suspects to face heavy punishments but in vain. Fuming with fury, the locals resolved to turn to an eye for an eye.
In 1992 the locals tired of a notorious serial killer, Lokuko rounded him up and killed him after he killed Akim the then LC3 chairman Rupa sub-county.
Since then, life has become meaningless to Karimojong. Killing is like a game. Human rights concerns have moved in but instead of helping government to tackle the problem, they are rather fanning it.
Ends

Karamoja, The Land Of An Eye For An Eye

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