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Gunships used Against Cattle Thieves
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 17, 2006 8:25 am    Post subject: Gunships used Against Cattle Thieves Reply with quote

Uganda: MPs Attack Govt Over Choppers


MEMBERS of Parliament from Karamoja region have criticised the government's decision to start using helicopter gun-ships in the disarmament of the Karimojong cattle rustlers.

Last week, Chief of Defence Forces Aronda Nyakairima told the parliamentary Defence Committee chaired by Rose Namayanja that he had ordered all commanders in the region to use choppers to disarm warriors. But MPs from the region have criticised the move saying it is a conspiracy to kill innocent civilians.

"We cannot accept this mistake. We need to disarm these people but this is not the best way," Francis Kiyonga (MP Pokot) said. "In any case how can a chopper disarm mere cattle rustlers? Innocent people will die and their food granaries will not be spared. The government must rethink its position."

In response Defence Minister Crispus Kiyonga, said armed conflict in Karamoja had escalated beyond traditional, tit-for-tat killing and cattle rustling, to a war against the government.

"I must admit what we are witnessing today in Karamoja is totally new. These people are shooting at our helicopters. This never used to happen," he said. "These warriors have changed tactics. They now operate under strict command and control."

But Karamoja Parliamentary Group Chairman Samuel Abura (Matheniko) said, "Everyone in Karamoja agrees that the guns must go, but what the UPDF is conducting now is no longer disarmament, but purely a military operation." "The use of choppers emphasises what we have all along been talking about. This is not disarmament, our people wil die and this must stop."

Mr Abura said the exercise had been derailed leading to innocent children, women and the elderly falling victim to the operation.

Army attempts to disarm Karimojong warriors in recent years have had little success. Many Karimojong re-armed after accusing the government of leaving them defenceless against neighbouring tribes, particularly in Kenya, that engage in cattle rustling.

Mr Abura said since the Lopuya incident in which Karimojong warriors killed 16 UPDF soldiers including Kham Rwashande, many people have been killed.

Gen. Nyakairima said, "If warriors attack our soldiers in big numbers, choppers will be availed to our commanders. If they come out without resisting there will be no problem." Asked whether the use of helicopter gun-ships will not result into death of innocent people, he said helicopters would only be used in what he calls 'special' cases.
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