The disarmament process in Karamoja region was fraught with gross human rights violations against civilians by the army, a report by an independent committee has concluded.
The alleged human rights abuses allegedly committed by the Uganda People's Defense Forces during this year's disarmament exercise were brought to national attention when the United Nations Development Program, (UNDP) suspended all its activities in Karamoja. UNDP said it would only resume its work in the region after full investigations into the claims.
The investigative committee chaired by the Uganda Human Rights Commission Director of Human Rights, Nathan Byamukama, says in its report that the UPDF applied ruthless methods in the disarmament process. The soldiers are accused of rape, murder, and torture against civilians in Moroto, Nakapiripirit and Kotido districts.
The report titled iCordon and Search Operations in Karamoja: Problems of Human rights violations" highlights several cases of physical torture, burning of civilian huts and food granaries, and looting of money, radios, mobile phones and stealing from civilian homes by soldiers of the UPDF.
The report, which is yet to be presented to the Prime Minister, states that most of the human rights abuses were committed by individual soldiers, in operational areas where their commanders had little or no control over them. The Prime Minister, Apollo Nsibambi, commissioned the investigations into the alleged Karamoja human rights abuses.
In one of the incidents, the report details of how a man suspected of having a illegal gun was tied up and beaten into a comma. The man was transferred to a barracks where he spent five days without treatment.
The report also details a case in which soldiers in Matany sub-county looted and drank 200 liters of kwete, an alcoholic local brew and stole a radio, a mobile phone and traditional Karamojong stools. The commander of those troops, Major Kasule, told the committee that the mobile phone was later returned to the owner, but the soldiers implicated were never punished.
The committee on human rights abuse in Karamoja is expected to hand over its final report to the Prime Minister and the National Security Council this week.