UGANDA: Army kills 'warriors' in northeast
KAMPALA, 15 February 2007 (IRIN) - Fifty-seven people, including four soldiers, have died since Monday in clashes pitting the army against warriors belonging to the Karamojong community in Uganda's northeastern district of Kotido, the military said.
The fighting started when an armed gang ambushed a group of soldiers and killed four of them, Lt Henry Obbo, the army spokesman in charge of northeastern Ugandan, told IRIN on Thursday.
"We followed a group that had also killed a tutor of a teacher's training college in the area - the second killing of a tutor in this institution in the past nine months - and they started attacking us," Obbo said. "We responded with superior firepower, captured one of them and killed 45 of them in the wilderness on Wednesday," he said.
Seven other Karamojong fighters had been killed during the initial encounter on Monday. The dead were all armed fighters, Obbo added.
The remote Karamoja region of Uganda is inhabited by livestock herding communities who often fight and steal cattle from each other.
The government launched a disarmament drive in the area in 2000, but the exercise has been widely criticised for the army’s allegedly heavy-handed tactics.
In December 2006, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said in a report that more than 150 people, including woman and children, had been killed and hundreds more displaced in northeastern Uganda in clashes between government soldiers and armed cattle herders during the previous two months.
"Following the government’s resumption in May of its forced disarmament programme to address insecurity created by the illegal possession of firearms by some Karamojong members, the reporting period witnessed deteriorating security conditions in Kotido, Kaabong and Abim caused by confrontations between the UPDF [Uganda People’s Defense Forces] and Karamojong warriors," UNICEF said.
Other sources in Kotido town said this week's fighting took place in Kacheru, Kailong and Lolelia areas of Kotido, where the pastoralists go to graze and water their cattle during the dry season.
Obbo said the attacks on the Karamojong warriors became necessary because of their ambushes on the army. "If they decide to attack us, we either capture them if it is possible or we kill them," he said.
During their ‘cordon and search’ operations, the military usually surround villages and demand that residents hand in their guns. Failure to do so results in arrest.
Copyright © IRIN 2007
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