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Project April 6, 2011

Karamoja: Broken Warriors

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Lokwii Nakuro lost her husband during an attempted cattle raid when he was shot in front of their hut. Now she and the rest of her family struggle to eke out a living by farming. Image by Marc Hofer. Uganda, 2011.

The Karamoja region in northeast Uganda is the most marginalized in the country and one of the least developed in the world. Home to cattle-herding nomads, Karamoja has been trapped in a cycle of conflict and neglect for generations as clans of Kalashnikov-wielding warriors have battled the government—and each other—for cattle and survival. For almost a decade, thousands of Ugandan soldiers have been conducting a disarmament campaign across Karamoja. Often brutal, it led to widespread reports of human rights abuses and left many unable to protect themselves as guns continued to seep across the regions porous borders. Now the Ugandan military says it has disarmed the warriors, finally putting an end to cattle rustling and opening the door to peace and development in this scarred region.

But with droughts increasing, life on the vast, arid plains of Karamoja is increasingly uncertain. Unwilling to part with their guns and with few other options, the warriors are desperate to maintain their way of life. Meanwhile the region continues to hemorrhage people as they leave to eke out a living begging on the streets of Ugandas bustling capital, Kampala. As Ugandas economy grows ahead of an expected oil bonanza in the next few years, this multimedia project looks at the people and plight of this under-reported region. Invisible even in their own country, we follow the lives of ordinary Karamojong, from cattle rustlers to child beggars.