A total of 32 Kenyan residents from Orum Sub County in Lodwar District, Turkana County have been convicted and sentenced to 20 years in jail by a Ugandan military court.
The court, presided over by Col Benard Arinaitwe Tuhame, Chairman of the 3rd Division Court Martial, handed down the sentence after the defendants pleaded guilty.
The charges were brought under Section 119 of the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) Act, which stipulates that anyone found in possession of weapons, ammunition, or equipment that is a monopoly of the armed forces will be subject to Military Law and tried by the Court Martial.
The conviction comes after a successful cordon and search operation conducted by the UPDF and police on April 8 in the areas of Lokiriaut, Nadunget sub-county, where 31 guns and 752 rounds of ammunition were recovered from Turkana pastoralists in Moroto District.
The operation was carried out in Lokereyot Village, Nadunget sub-county, about 50 kilometers from Moroto Town, and led to the recovery of 19 bows and arrows.
Brig Gen Joseph Balikuddembe, the UPDF 3rd Division commander, explained that the operation was based on intelligence that indicated the kraal in the village was a hideout for guns.
He stated, “It was a well-executed operation after intelligence leads indicated that the kraal in the village owned by the Turkana pastoralists was a hideout for guns.”
During the operation, one warrior was killed, and several others were injured. Brig Balikuddembe praised the joint security forces for minimizing casualties despite the heavy crossfire.
He said, “Joint security forces minimized as much as possible the number of casualties despite the heavy crossfire that injured five warriors, one UPDF soldier, while one warrior was put out of action as he tried to flee the scene with a gun.”
In total, 129 suspects were arrested in the operation, but the criminal files for the 32 defendants were ready for prosecution.
The illegal trade of guns has been a persistent issue in the region, with Karamoja and Turkana being known hubs for such activities.
Guns are often smuggled through the porous borders of Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, and Somalia and have been used in cattle raids, which have resulted in increased violence and loss of life in the region of Karamoja and neighboring areas of Teso, Sebei, Lango, and Acholi.