Turkana leaders urge Museveni to release 40 herders detained in Uganda

Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni. [UPPS]

Leaders from Turkana have called on Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni to release the 40 pastoralists detained in Uganda.

The leaders and officials from Turkana and Karamoja engaged in negotiations in Moroto, Uganda, on Thursday, following a meeting held in Nairobi on December 22 and 23, 2023.

Eight of the 40 Kenyan herders jailed in Uganda were arrested in connection with the killing of a geologist in the neighbouring country early last year.

The other 32, according to Ugandan authorities, were arrested for illegal possession of firearms.

During the meeting in Moroto, it was revealed that conflicts resulting from cattle theft had denied the Ateker communities spread across Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan, and Ethiopia resources, including water and pasture.

Turkana Governor Jeremiah Lomorukai appealed to President Museveni to release the suspects as investigations into the killing of the geologist continue.

Lomorukai, who led the Kenyan delegation, assured the neighbouring country that the killers of the geologist would be brought to book, emphasizing that the jailed suspects were innocent herders.

“We are appealing to President Museveni to pardon our people as investigations continue,” the governor said.

He said the Turkana community made an appeal through Karamoja for the release of the 40 herders.

Lomorukai revealed that the dialogue would be extended to unite Ateker communities such as Nyang’atom, Tong’iro, and Toposa, among others in South Sudan and Ethiopia.

“The communities have close cultural ties and relatives across the border. They speak the same language and need to be allowed to enjoy resources across the borders,” he said.

Uganda’s Minister for Energy, Peter Lokeris, who is also the chairman of Ateker communities, said coexistence would be achieved when pastoralist communities cross borders in what he described as an orderly manner.

However, Lokeris did not give assurance on whether the 40 Turkana herders would be released.

“We are advising our neighbours to refrain from carrying guns when they enter Uganda because you cannot violate the laws of another country,” Lokeris said.

“The herders should cross the border when the Ugandan authorities have been informed by their Kenyan counterparts. This way, it will be easier to monitor movements and apprehend criminals who may disrupt the peace,” he added.