Soldiers take festival by storm (Daily Nation (Kenya))

Turkana leaders are unhappy with the large number of Ugandan soldiers who were guarding First Lady Janet Museveni during the county’s Tourism and Cultural Festival last week.

The Ugandans took charge of security at the festival, from the entrance to the main dais, infuriating local leaders who were in attendance.

Turkana East MP Nicholas Ngikor said Ugandan soldiers should not have come, as the county has enough security.

County Commissioner Julius Mathenge chairs the county security unit.

The presence of the soldiers scared off many locals who had attended the event while others just kept off completely, said Mr Ngikor.

A Lodwar resident, Mr James Ekiru, said implementation of the East African Community meant trust among state-parties, adding that it was needless for Uganda to send its soldiers to guard the First Lady.

In most cases, our security forces are not allowed to enter Uganda with arms and we wonder why Uganda had to do the direct opposite. Why are they doubting our security agencies’ ability to offer security? said Mr Ekiru.

However, Ugandan soldiers may have feared that perennial cattle rustling and banditry in Turkana and the neighbouring three counties could pose a security threat to Mrs Museveni.

Also, the fact that the four countries still have herders who own illegal guns that they use to protect their livestock is a security risk.

And in her speech, Mrs Museveni called on leaders from the region to foster reconciliation and encourage disarmament to get rid of illegal guns.

Peace is paramount for socio-economic development of pastoral communities in East Africa and promotion of cross-border trade. These fights have contributed to the high levels of poverty, said Mrs Museveni.

Leaders at the festival stressed the need for pastoralists to coexist peacefully, which is a prerequisite for governments to realise sustainable development.

The leaders said it was only when there is peace that governments will provide basic services such as water, health, and education.

Other leaders who included governors Daniel Nanok (Turkana), Jackson Mandago (Uasin Gishu) and Joshua Irungu (Laikipia), as well as representatives from South Sudan and Ethiopia, called for recovery of illegal guns, which they said were promoting tribal raids.

Mrs Museveni cited Uganda’s Karamojong community where she said development has been realised after the government mopped up illegal guns.

I am calling on Kenyan pastoralists to discard the culture of armed raids and allow the government to initiate development projects, she said.