Academic journal article Nomadic Peoples

'Disarmament': The End or Fulfillment of Cattle Raiding?

Academic journal article Nomadic Peoples

'Disarmament': The End or Fulfillment of Cattle Raiding?

Article excerpt


The Uganda government claims that the now decade-long disarmament campaign is achieving pacification and the end of cattle raiding. Here, such claims are tested using data collected over a ten-month period between 2007 and 2008. These data show that the army is unable to prevent raiding or to recover and return more than a token number of raided livestock. The disastrous consequences of unbalanced disarmament are also considered, using material from in-depth interviews within one Karimojong territorial section involved, the Bokora. Following unbalanced disarmament, this section has lost to raids almost all its livestock and remains under constant threat, so that even the prospect of long-term restocking through breeding seems uncertain. As seasonal rains continue to fail to produce a harvest, large numbers of Bokora have dispersed to eke out low-status livelihoods elsewhere in Uganda, or they are rendered dependent and immobile on an inadequately funded World Food Programme. Forced to disarm and then left unprotected, the Bokora are already losing the whole framework of their culture, and they risk losing their territory too.

Keywords: Karamojong, pastoralism, cattle-raiding, guns, disarmament


The Chief of Defence Forces of Uganda, General Aronda Nyakairima, was reported in January 2010 as saying that Karamoja 'had been made pacified' (Raymond Baguma: 'AU Starts Paying UPDF Wages', New Vision, 29 January 2010). The following month the commander of the Third Division of the Uganda People's Defence Force (UPDF), Brigadier Patrick Kankiriho, claimed that there were only 1,077 guns left to collect from the Karamojong before 'we can embark on integrated development and total pacification of the sub-region' (Olandason Wanyama: '1,000 Illegal Guns Still in Karamoja--UPDF', New Vision, 8 February 2010). He means that the UPDF had 'collected 29,923 guns', according to their figures, since the disarmament exercise began in 2001 had nearly reached 30,000, one of several figures of the number of small arms then circulating in Karamoja, but less than the target of 40,000 that had been adopted by 2003 (Mkutu 2008a: 1 n32). The United Nations Development Programme has taken the extraordinary step of planning and supporting a military operation, the Joint Kenya Uganda Disarmament Action Plan (Office of the Prime Minister 2007: 18f.). Karamoja Integrated Disarmament and Development Programme (KIDDP) has already been not only a partner in development in 'shooting on site [sic]" (2007: 9), but its very design was to promote the disarmament programme by the army! (1) Disarmament aimed at the end of cattle raiding.

The axiomatic assumption of government and NGOs that the presence of guns caused cattle raiding must now be exposed. (2) This article uses a survey of incidents of raiding in South Karamoja in 2007-8. Information collected through in-depth interviews is then analysed in comparison to earlier fieldwork, and the implications for the nature of the relationship of nomadic pastoralism and cattle raiding is explored. This article will begin by examining the nature of cattle raiding, then analyse its empirical incidence in South Karamoja, and zero in on the Bokora and the Pei as the two territorial sections who have succumbed most to disarmament, in order to gauge its effect on their culture.

The Characteristics of Cattle Raiding and Disarmament

Disarmament is a popular concept in the West, when attention turns to Africa, for the wide ownership of arms is assumed to be a threat to the state, democracy and African lives (Mkutu 2008a: 1-7, 116-44). Cattle raiding is a far less clear concept. It is often used interchangeably with cattle rustling, but the distinction in English can be built upon. The older term is 'cattle lifting', while the term 'rustler' was only first used for a cattle thief in 1882, the term derived from the rustling sound involved in the furtive stealing of farm animals. …

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