President Museveni and his Kenyan counterpart Uhuru Kenyatta Thursday witnessed the historical signing of a peace deal towards the joint development of the marginalised Turkana-Pokot-Karamoja region along the border of the two countries.
Museveni, while waiting for Kenyatta, took off time to pose for pictures at Kobebe dam, in Karamoja.
“We discussed how to support the pastoralist communities of Karamoja and Turkana, in Kenya. I was at Latitude 2° North and 48 minutes (2°48 N),” Museveni noted.
“You can see how green it is!! The temperature, at that moment, was actually, 22° Celsius, very pleasant.”
Museveni said the myth that Karamoja is dry is only perpetuated by those that do not know the opportunities available.
Yes, Karamoja gets rain for fewer months than in the South of Uganda, he noted.
However, in those few months, they get good rain. The challenge is to trap that water in dams, “like we have done with this Kobebe Dam” which is able to store 2.3 billion litres of water during the rainy season.
This can cater for 267,000 cattle, when at 70% capacity, for 4 months during the drought.
“It actually rained. I had to put on my jacket although it was 13:40 hours ( forty minutes minutes past One O’clock -Omwihaangwe).”
The two Heads of State shook hands at Naitakwae Playgrounds in Moroto, in the Ugandan side of the border, after witnessing the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding for Cross-Border Peace and Development on the border.
Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa and Uganda’s Minister for Karamoja Affairs John Byabagambi signed the agreement in front of the two leaders and hundreds of top government officials from both countries. For years the communities have fought each other over pasture and cattle in conflicts that have often led to deaths.
“This agreement will help us ensure long-lasting peace for our people. It is not only about peace but sustainable development,” said President Kenyatta.
On his part, President Museveni said his administration had initiated a range of projects aimed at improving the economy of the region saying it was the only to ensure the lives of the residents improved.
He said the peace agreement would give his government an opportunity to implement the projects in the Karamoja region.
“President Kenyatta understands the importance of unity in Africa. He has the best spectacles to see and know what is required for a good economy. We have lined up projects like cement, marble and gold factories in this region. We also have a honey and meat processing programmes here,” said Museveni.
The biggest challenge within the region has been cattle rustling that has always been fueled by readily available guns.
Uganda has tried to rid the Karamojong of the lethal guns through past disarmament but other countries including Kenya have failed in similar missions.
In 2001, the Ugandan government managed to recover at least 40, 000 illegal guns during a mop up pushed by President Museveni in the region. During that exercise, Turkanas who had been living in Uganda for years were said to have escaped to Kenya in droves to avoid losing their guns.