A Ugandan court martial has sentenced 32 Kenyans to 20 years each in prison for illegally possessing firearms and ammunition.
The Turkana herders from Orum in Lodwar were convicted after pleading guilty and sentenced to serve jail terms in Moroto Government Prison in Northern Uganda.
Section 119 of the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) Act says any person found with weapons, ammunition or equipment that is a monopoly of the armed forces is subject to military law and tried by a court martial.
UPDF together with Uganda police on April 8 raided a cattle enclosure in Lokiriaut and Lokereyot villages of Nadunget sub-county where they recovered 31 guns, 752 rounds of ammunition, 19 bows and arrows.
“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,” UPDF 3rd Division commander Brig Gen Joseph Balikuddembe said.
“Joint security forces minimised the number of casualties as much as possible, despite the heavy gunfire that injured five herders and one UPDF soldier, while one warrior was put out of action as he tried to flee the scene with a gun,” he said.
Balikuddembe said that about 129 suspects were arrested in the operation, but criminal files indicate only the 32 suspects were the ones who were ready for prosecution by Tuesday.
Over the years, Karamoja in Uganda and Turkana in Kenya have been a hub of illegal guns ferried in through the porous borders of Kenya, Uganda, Sudan and Somalia. It is these guns that are used during cattle raids, which have increased in recent times in the two neighbour countries.