Kenya closes its borders temporarily with Uganda, Sudan and Ethiopia


Writes Leo Odera Omolo In Kisumu City

KENYAN Troops were at the weekend moved with their heavy artillery and guns to secure and seal the country’s international borders with Sudan and Ethiopia, ahead of the planned exercise to mop up illegal guns.

The measurers are temporary and aimed at preventing border crossings by the pastoralist communities, known to be crossing for the purpose of hiding their illegally acquired guns with their kins across the common border, each time there is such exercises launched by the government for the purpose of seizing illegal firearms.

The arrival of the officers has caused a lot of panic in the North Rift where cattle rustling has been the order of the day, a menace blamed on the existence of unlicensed firearms.

Hundred of troops were spotted taking positions at Suam forest area on the Kenya-Uganda border, while some trucks were seen in Kitale and Kapenguria towns, dropping off the soldiers.

It was also learnt that the Uganda Peoples Defense {UPDF} were also on high alert on the other side of the common border. The Ugandan soldiers are said to have received firm instruction from their superiors to seize Kenyans fleeing and sneaking into their country with guns.

“The soldiers have been stationed between a radius of 5 and 10 kilometers apart with express instructions to ruthlessly deal with illegal gun handlers.

“Our men are on high alert and have been instructed to disarm or arrest any person with illegal firearms,” an UPDF soldier said on the phone. The soldier, however, sought for his anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the press on security matters.

On the Kenyan side of the border, security forces scaled up security at Kabolet, Mt Elgon and Suam forests in North Rift, where rustlers plan and execute raids.

Regular police, Administration Police, and General Service Unit {GSU} personnel have been mobilized from various districts to back up the disarmament exercises expected to take weeks.

During a recent meeting between security agencies from Kenya and Uganda held in Kitale, the countries resolved to conduct joint disarmament to enhance development along the border.

Ugandan delegation, led by Brigadier Patrick Kankiribo, the commander of UPDF 3rd division, had complained of Kenya’s reluctance to retrieve guns from the Pokots and Turkanas pastoralist communities.

NakapirIpIri Resident District Commissioner, RDC Andrew Napaja told the Kitale meeting that over 27,000 guns have been recovered from communities living on Eastern part of Uganda.

At the same time, the Provincial Administration from Western Kenya and Easter Uganda met at another border town of Busia to lay plans and logistics for the operation. Upper Western Regional Commissioner Rashid Mohammed said the cooperation would ensure security and eliminate illegal trade.

“We will tighten our security surveillance to ensure the arms are not smuggled into the two countries unnoticed.”

Busia Uganda DC, Emily Aluku, who led her country’s delegation, said more similar meetings would enhance collaborations in investigations and arresting of suspects. The meeting comes barely weeks after a terror suspect arrested in Busia mysteriously disappeared from police custody.

In another important development, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, and Kenya’s Prime Minister Raila Amolo OIdinga, held a crucial meeting at the State House, Entebbe at the weekend.

The meeting between the two gave an impression that the row over the ownership of the controversial Migingo fishing islands would soon end in a happy note once the joint survey by Kenya and Uganda is completed.

During the talks between the two last Friday, they called for a speedy completion of the joint survey work, which has stalled off and on for sometime, since it was launched early last year.

President Museveni said his country had temporarily called off the exercise to consult with his government on certain descriptive details appearing on earlier documkents describing the location of the island.

The Prime Minister arrived in Uganda on Good Friday for a working Easter holiday, and went into a lengthy discussion with the Ugandan leader. The talks focused on cross border security and trade issues, ranging from the controversy over Migingo, to cattle rustling.

The two leaders also agreed to initiate joint sensitization exercises along the border to educate patrol communities on alternative economic activities. Cattle rustling, the leaders said, have impeded development among the community on both sides of the border. They said an agreement for either government to pursue and extradite rustlers, who have fled across the border, would bring the menaces to an end.

President Museveni, according to the government owned NEWVISION, had emphasized that through a joint initiative, Kenya and Uganda could end the cattle rustling menace along their common border, then jointly appeal to Sudan and Ethiopia to do the same.

Museveni said he was keen to see an end to the tribulation of fishermen struggling to earn a living out of the lake. “ I am determined to ensure Kenyans fish legally, even if they are on the Ugandan side of Lake Victoria, and that will be ensured once we finish this survey work.”


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