Leaders from Turkana county, Uganda, Ethiopia and South Sudan have pledged to work together to end cattle rustling and illicit arms trade.
Leaders from the Ateker ethnic group of Ethiopia, South Sudan, Uganda and Kenya spoke during the Karamoja Cultural festival in Abim district in Uganda last week.
The Ateker communities include Teso (both in Kenya and Uganda), Turkana (Kenya), Karamojong (Uganda), Jie (Uganda), Toposa (South Sudan) and Nyangatom (Ethiopia).
Turkana leaders led by Governor Jeremiah Lomorukai said peaceful coexistence across the four countries will pave the way for development and industrialisation.
He called on the region’s leaders to hold joint peace events, speak directly to cattle rustlers and engage them to end livestock theft.
“The proliferation of small arms in the region has contributed to poverty, illiteracy, backwardness, loss of lives and property,” Lomorukai said.
“I urge the leadership to put more efforts into ending cattle theft.”
He also urged leaders not to glorify the illicit arms trade or cattle rustling. People’s mindset about outlaws must be changed for better livelihoods, the governor said.
Lomorukai said his objective is to work with all leaders across the countries to bring peace and allow people to share natural resources.
Major investment in natural resources is needed so residents benefit, but that won’t happen as long as the region is insecure, the governor said.
“We need to change the game and get the actors (rustlers) from South Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya to discuss how to end cattle rustling.
“If we only engage with leaders and administrators, it will take too much time to resolve this issue,” he said.
The Turkana governor promised to revive and revamp the Lokiriama peace accord and Moru Anayece commemorations [or origins to promote peace.
Lomorukai urged leaders to prioritise education, cross-border trade, infrastructure development and essential services.
Former MP Paul Napwon of Eastern Equatorial state in South Sudan deplored that the Ateker community has been left behind in development due to insecurity. He headed the Toposa leadership to the event.
“We have come here in Uganda for this festival to share and maintain our culture of Ateker, discuss security and cross border trade,” he said.
“The most fundamental issue is security, as without it nothing can be done,” Napwon said. “I urge our people from South Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda to preach peace.
“The firearms trade has hurt us, our regions are undeveloped. It’s time to hand over illicit guns and live in peace.”