Uganda: January 15, 2003


: One of Africa's oldest excuses for warfare - rustling livestock - has returned to the Uganda-Kenya border with a vengeance. At least 30 civilians had been killed in running battles across northeastern Uganda by the 15th, after Pian tribesmen attacked Bokora tribesmen in a bid to steal their cattle on the 12th. Both the Pian and Bokora are clans of the Karamojong tribe, nomadic herders who traditionally attack neighboring tribes to steal cattle. 

More clashes had erupted when Kenyan Pokot tribesmen crossed the border on the 13th and attacked Karamojong herdsmen 380 kilometers northeast of Kampala. At least 35 Kenyans and 17 Ugandans were killed by both spears and gunfire, although the death toll could rise as more bodies are discovered in the remote area. The fighting ended after only 24 hours, when Ugandan security forces sent reinforcements to the area to track the rustlers. 

The Ugandan Army has had a rough time in the area, having last gone after the Pokot rustlers with government-backed Ugandan paramilitary Local Defense Units (LDUs) and Karimojong tribal warriors. This mixed patrol was ambushed on 6 January. At least 17 LDUs and one soldier were killed, but at least 35 of the Ugandan and Kenyan Pokot raiders were killed when government soldiers and LDU members fought back. This group of 200 armed Pokot cattle rustlers had entered Uganda on the first weekend in January to attack two villages 500 km northeast of the capital Kampala. They killed at least 10 people, then drove away between 700 and 800 head of cattle. 

The new Kenyan government sworn in on 30 December promised to be more effective in cooperating on peace and security issues along the common border with Uganda.
The Pokot had also stolen cattle from the Karimojong in November.

For years, northeastern Uganda has been an unhealthy place to live or attempt to do business, due to bloody cattle rustling raids. The Karimojong either raid amongst themselves and or neighboring tribes like the Pokot, who often retaliate in kind.
Now the Karamojong have automatic weapons and rocket propelled grenade launchers. In the 1990s, the Ugandan Army trained and armed the tribesmen so they could defend themselves against attacks by cattle rustlers from other tribes. However, only a quarter of the 4,000 unauthorized weapons in the hands of the tribesmen have been collected. - Adam Geibel

Uganda and Kenya maps online, at;


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