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Story May 25, 2011

Karamoja: Where Abuses Fall Under the Radar

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Uganda’s Karamoja region, home to tribes of cattle-herding, Kalashnikov-wielding nomads, has been...

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Image by Duncan Woodside, Uganda, 2011.



Over the last decade, Uganda's army has orchestrated a security crackdown in Karamoja, a remote region in the country's northeast, which has long been blighted by cattle raiding.  

The cattle raiding goes back centuries. It is often a rite of passage for young men in traditional nomadic societies. But the death toll from such raiding surged when, in the 1990s, Karamoja was flooded with automatic weapons from war-torn Sudan and Somalia.

The security crackdown by Uganda's army—the Uganda People's Defence Force (UPDF)—has resulted in thousands of illegal weapons being impounded and destroyed.

Yet, while there has been an improvement in the overall security situation in Karamoja, this stability has come at a cost.

Communities across the region are being subjected to "cordon and search" operations, as the UPDF descends upon villages to search for weapons and stolen livestock. Sometimes, when weapons aren't found, villagers claim that they are tortured.

In this short film, we follow one such cordon and search operation and listen as two alleged torture victims tell their stories. These stories unfold against a backdrop where, a decade after operations started, the ongoing security crackdown in the Karamoja region remains largely unrecorded by the international media.

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