By Mukomboozi Jackson
Uganda has handed over six Kenyan suspected cattle rustlers arrested in its Karamoja region that borders Turkana in Kenya.
The suspects were released to the Turkana County government by the Ugandan military as a “gesture of East African Community partnership and as a sign of peaceful co-existence.”
The exercise led by Brig Gen Felix Busizoori of the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) was done at Moroto Army Barracks in northern Uganda and attended by Turkana County secretary and head of public service, Peter Eripete.
“The Turkana suspects were arrested alongside their kinship, the native Matheniko in different cordon and search operations where they were engaged in cattle rustling in Karamoja sub-region between 20th February to 26 February 2023,” the UPDF said Monday.
Brig Gen Busizoori urged Kenyan authorities to “penalise the suspects for abusing the peaceful co-existence and cross-border security arrangements”, saying letting them off the hook would encourage impunity.
He warned that those caught violating Ugandan laws would face the law in the country.
UPDF said eight Matheniko suspects arrested alongside the Turkanas would be subjected to Uganda’s courts of law.
Last month, Kenya and Uganda initiated talks to open a one-stop border post in Lokiriama in northwest Kenya, that would seek to open up trade and fight livestock raids.
The two countries revived their September 2019 memorandum of understanding to enhance cross-border trade between the Turkana and Karamoja, by establishing immigration and customs border points at Lokiriama, Nawountos and Nakitong’o.
The border region is mainly occupied by the Turkana and Pokot ethnic communities in northwestern Kenya, and the Karamajong, an ethnic group of agro-pastoral herders living in northeast Uganda.
These communities have over the years engaged in banditry, making the region unsafe.
The two countries, however, see the opening of the border post as one of the measures to end cattle rustling or stock theft, an age-old tradition that has been commercialized by international criminal networks in East Africa and the Horn.