MOROTO – Paul Lotukei, 28, a resident of Nakambi Village in Moroto District, formerly a cattle rustler was forced to abandon the trade and live a reformed life. Today, Lotukei wishes he could turn back the time as he regrets all the time wasted in his earlier years.
In 2010 Lotukei was one of the rustlers arrested during the disarmament exercise. While in custody he surrendered his gun.
After losing the gun his life became hard. He started burning charcoal for survival and while cutting trees one day, he was shot and injured by warriors who were still holding onto their guns.
It was a tough time, but it did not mark his end, or that of his family. When the Food and Agriculture organisation called for boys to be trained as community animal health workers, Lotukei was among the 20 who qualified. And as he says, “I no longer have interest in a gun anymore because it made me suffer. Although it was my source of living, I have rejected it.”
Everyday Lotukei leaves his home at 7:00a.m to treat animals in the community from where he earns some money. He works until 6:00p.m as an in-charge of the community animal health workers of Musasi Parish in Katikekile Sub County in Moroto District.
“If I had realised this kind of support when I was growing up, I would have not picked the gun and destabilised my brothers the Turkana and within the Karamoja,” he said.
Mr. Lotukei told PML Daily on October 26 in Musasi that the knowledge that he acquired as a community animal health worker has made him manage his family and give his three children a balanced diet.
“I wasted my time in cattle rustling by now I would be a rich man, I was the second in command of the Matheniko cattle rustlers, in the year of 1997, I led a group of 15 warriors from Katikekile Sub County
to raid the animals in Turkana, and indeed we succeed and raided 400 cattle. We passed through Longirikipi, and found Turkana armed warriors. We fought them for about two hours and overpowered them, we continued on the journey, but when we reached Nakonyen in Moroto, we landed into an ambush organised by the Ugandan army [UPDF], we exchanged fire for about 3hours and managed to kill
12 UPDF soldiers, and also lost 10 of our boys. We managed to escape with all 400 cattle that we had raided.
“At home I sold the cattle from that raid to buy more guns. That was the end. The army started looking for me and I had no choice but to surrender,” he said.
Adding: “Then UPDF 3rd Division Commander, the late Patrick Kankiriho, pardoned me and gave me a certificate of amnesty now I don’t want to as little as touch a gun because what I’m earning now as a community animal health worker is much better than staying in the bush and missing my family.”
Mr. Lotukei is grateful for the government decision to remove the guns from them because, he says, they did not know that the guns were blocking them from enjoying other development things.
“I didn’t know that there will be better life after a gun because it’s what I saw my parents do. I do not want my children to follow guns and suffer they way I did out of ignorance,” he said.
Mr. Lotukei has built a semi-permanent house to prove to those stuck in warring and still holding on to, living in the bush, that there is a better life than cattle rustling and ambushing vehicles.
Mr. Lotukei appealed to his colleagues who are still hiding in the bush and the Turkana who are still armed to hand over their guns and engage in productive activities.