By Mackey Okidi
His Highness, The Emorimor Papa Iteso Augustine K. Lemukol Osuban has issued a stern warning to the cultural, religious and political leaders in Teso and Karamoja sub-regions to desist from fueling antagonism between the two sister-communities for personal, political or other gains.
This is contained in the press release dated 1, March, 2019 sent to all media houses in Teso and Karamoja regions.
His warning follows the border tension escalating between the Iteso of Katakwi district and the Karamojong of Napak district.
On Tuesday 19, February 2019, the Minister of Local Government, Hon. Tom Butime declared that Alekilek and Amaratoit primary schools fall under Katakwi district, and Aiselem market and Poron fall under Napak district.
The minister’s pronouncement follows tense conflict between Iteso and Karamojong over land demarcations which has dragged for over five decades.
Though the pronouncement was met by Katakwi district leaders, a number of Karamojong leaders are asking the minister to retract his pronouncement on disputed Napak-Katakwi land.
Addressing the media on Thursday, Karamoja legislators and leaders led by Joseph Lomoyang, the LC5 chairperson Napak district inquired government to quash its position.
This, according, to them is likely to trigger re-occurrence of conflict between the two communities.
They also claimed that the land traditionally belonged to Karamoja community and proposed that government uses scientific methods to open the boundaries.
Lomonyang, said the announcement by the minister seeks to re-demarcate the border but not to reaffirm and re-open it, “we call on government through the ministry of land to verify, reaffirm and open regional boundaries and make known to the nation any alterations of historical information related to the mapping after independence”.
“In event that it’s not possible through government institutions, leaders ask government to enrich the support of British government in reopening of boundaries,” Lomoyang stated.
The district woman MP Napak, Stella Namoe noted that in the past, the demarcations between the two communities were marked by ‘motorable trucks roads’ that were set by the British but this were not mirrored in the survey report.
“The motorable trucks roads that were set by the British, and at that time cattle were not allowed to cross to Teso from Karamoja. The animals would be confiscated in case that happened and that is the boundary the Karamojong know from memorial time,” Namoe added.
However, in his press release which TND News has obtained a copy, His Highness Emorimor cautioned that the issue of the border between Teso and Karamoja should never cause any tension between the Iteso and the Karamojong because neither of them caused or created the boundary line.
“Supported by the Government, some non-governmental organizations and civil society organizations, and through cultural elders’ meetings during our annual cultural festivals, we the Ateker people have come a very long thorny way looking for peace and unity”, His Highness says.
“These institutions have together worked to create the peace and harmony which also resulted into our unity manifested in the creation of Ateker Group, which is our unit meant to foster development amongst us the Iteso and Karamojong of Uganda; the Turkana of Kenya, the Nyangatom of Ethiopia; and the Toposa of South Sudan,” the press release reads in part.
His Highness Emorimor Papa Iteso said since it is neither the Iteso nor the Karamojong who were responsible for the creation of the border, the two sister tribes should not turn violent against each other.
He added that either should we blame the Government of Uganda for showing us the colonial border lines left for us.
We should, therefore, respect the decision of the Independent Government of Uganda, the authority that took over managing the affairs of Uganda from the colonial masters.
Instead of fueling conflict over the border, His Highness the Emorimor Papa Iteso noted that Teso and Karamoja leaders should promote unity and peace of Ateker people as we move to achieve our development goals without any hindrance and fear, and ensure that our enemies should not hide in this border conflict to confuse us and sabotage the unity that will bring development to our people.
He further called upon government, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), civil society organizations (CSOs) both in Teso and Karamoja to support people of Iteso and Karamojong in their pursuit for lasting peace, unity and development for the two sister-communities.
History of Teso-Karamoja boarder boundaries.
Like any other borders in Uganda and Africa, the one between Teso and Karamoja was created, drawn in maps and introduced by the colonial government and the borderlines were adopted by the Government of Uganda at the time of independence in 1962.
The biggest border contention has been the Alekilek and Amaratoit villages plus Aiselem market and Poron areas.
During the insurgency in Teso, the Karamojong settled in Alekilek and Amaratoit in the 1990s and claimed them to be areas under the jurisdiction of Napak district local government; but which Iteso have been claiming are under the Katakwi district local government.
Iteso, too, have been claiming that Aiselem market and Poron areas have been part of Katakwi land, which the Karamjong also claim are part of Napak land.