Silencing the Gun in Karamoja Region-Blog Oasis peace web organisation
Updated: Jun 25, 2019
Karamoja is a vast arid and semi-arid land straddling North Eastern Uganda, North Western Kenya, Southern part of South Sudan and part of Ethiopia. This region is the home of pastoral communities, Ateker speaking people for centuries. Here the cow has been the known source of livelihood. When I say a cow in this context, it means cattle, donkey, goats, sheep, camel and so forth. In this region, violent conflict has remained the daily experience of people for decades. Despite many efforts to bring it to an end by myriad peace actors, the region is not yet fully pacified. M4, G3, AK47, home-made gun have remained the constant tools of choice. Here AK47 is the most preferred tool. Some of my friends, highly experienced warriors had hinted that of all the four, AK47 is the most powerful machine in a Karimojong armoury. The reasons being: It releases a unique sound; it can hit the distant target, bullets are always available; and it could release countless bullets without getting the heat unlike the others. Interestingly, the warriors have idolized ‘these tools of Choice.’ Some say, “The gun is my girlfriend, the gun is my wife, the gun is my home, the gun is my bank, the gun is my wallet, the gun is my life without it am gone, without the gun am a woman.” That is why Johan Gultung says that the culture of people is capable to make the reality opaque. Some cultural objects (gun) can be used to express self realization. In the context of Karamoja region, the most successful warriors are baptised with the killing or satanic names ending with letters, le such as Oinamole. These are the heroes of the community. They are always allowed to marry many wives, allowed to own countless animals, allowed to make critical decisions affecting the community affairs, and so on. These men are preferred by most women as husbands. This is because they are capable to provide much needed security. And they possess a lot of wealth unlike the others. As a peace researcher, I kept asking: What makes Karimojong people adore objects that kills? Unequivocally, the region has been marginalized for decades by respective governments. Essential services of humanity such as hospitals, schools, roads, clean water, food, new civilization has been a mirage. The forgotten people had invented the survival mechanisms in such an harsh reality, where cattle rustling is the only known game by many. Unless, the regional governments, NGOs, UN, EU chip in fully to provide increasingly absent development needs of people, the gun will refuse to remain silent.