April 12, 2024

Kenya, Uganda quarrel over detained herdsmen

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UPDF officers on Moroto – Kotido road in Napak District escorting Karamojong herders after rescuing herds of cattle from the Pokot rustlers in 2019. Cattle rustling has persisted in Karamoja despite all efforts taken by Uganda authorities. Picture: Morgan Mbabazi

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The constant territorial tiff between Kenya and Uganda is reignited, this time as Nairobi accuses Uganda of court martialling and convicting Kenyans to up to 20 years in prison.

Foreign and Diaspora Affairs Cabinet Secretary Alfred Mutua revealed that 32 Kenyans were arrested by Ugandan security forces in April and taken to Moroto Barracks in eastern Uganda, where they faced a court-martial for the offense of possession of illegal firearms.

Days later, on April 11, the military court sentenced them to 10 years each for each of the two counts of illegal possession of firearms and ammunition.

Back in April, the Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) entered Kenya following the killing of three Ugandan geologists and two UPDF soldiers who were guarding the geologists in Lotisan Sub-County in Moroto District.

However, the troops were hunting for herdsmen believed to have committed the acts in Uganda before fleeing into Kenya. The UPDF seized 27 AK-47 rifles, one self-loading rifle (SLR), 751 rounds of ammunition, 32 magazines, three sets of UPDF uniforms, and 19 bows and arrows.

“An important point to note is that any civilian found in possession of illicit firearms is subject to court martial under Ugandan law, specifically the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) Act, because the government deems them combatants,” Mutua told Kenya’s National Assembly this week.

Kenya’s beef is that civilians were court-martialed for offenses that are routinely tried in local civilian judicial organs. The second complaint is that Uganda kidnapped Kenyan nationals on Kenyan soil, which would amount to a violation of Kenya’s territorial integrity.

In Uganda, civilians caught with illegal firearms are often tried in military courts, something that doesn’t apply in Kenya.

written by @enock katamba

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