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Joseph Kabuleta, the Principal NEED

By Mulengera Reporters

Former presidential candidate Joseph Kabuleta Kiiza and his National Economic Empowerment Dialogue (NEED) team have painted a grim picture of the security and economic situation in mineral-rich Karamoja sub-region.

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A pastor, sports journalist and politician passionate about economic empowerment, Kabuleta says NEED, for which he is president, has been on a fact-finding mission in Karamoja, a region endowed with mineral resources yet one of Uganda’s poorest. In recent months, Karamoja has attracted the attention of Kabuleta’s pressure group following UPDF’s efforts to hunt for a group that killed a team of geologists attached to Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development and two Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) soldiers who were in Moroto District in March 2022.

According to Emmanuel Chero, the NEED Coordinator in Karamoja, the soldiers guarding the team of geologists are to blame for the unfortunate incident. Chero claims that the soldiers were the first to attack the herdsmen in panic.

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Kabuleta argues that while the world is silent, “a silent genocide” could be going on in Karamoja. He is particularly concerned that following the killing of soldiers and geologists about two months ago, the Commander of UPDF Land Forces, Lt Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba, promised that the army would take hell to Karamoja. He now wants Muhoozi to account for the actions of the UPDF in the sub-region. He claims that indiscriminate aerial bombardments carried out by the military left many people dead as manyattas (homesteads) were reportedly torched.

Moses Matovu the Spokesperson NEED.

According to Chero, about 460 innocent people died in the aerial bombardments. He further alleges that the army warned Karamoja MPs to go slow on the matter. The NEED team members seem to believe that government – or at least those who claim to represent it and the mafia – are more interested in the minerals than people. They argue that those interested in illegally benefiting from the sub-region’s wealth are chasing people from their homes so that they can exploit gold and other precious stones as they want. Follow the Link to watch full video

Kabuleta wonders why government finds it difficult to compensate the locals if they want their land for mineral exploration and exploitation. “They cannot even compensate people. These people want places to graze their cows, can’t you at least compensate them for their land?” Chero insists that land belongs to the people and minerals to the government, and that government should allow communities to use their land as capital to buy shares in mining companies and then share dividends. He notes that there are instances where big companies have failed to pay for land but now want more to establish plants. He also accused some government institutions, including one in the conservation sector, of selling government land.

Emmanuel Chero the Coordinator Karamonja region.

Kabuleta also expressed concern over allegations that some soldiers are selling guns and bullets to warriors. He equally alleged that this trade in bullets and guns, some of which reportedly belong to the UPDF according to Chero, is meant to facilitate the rumored theft of minerals, which action he says benefits only President Museveni, his immediate family and their allies.

Arguing that the reason Museveni is clinging onto power is because of resources and that those in power are right when they say their children will never be poor, the journalist-turned-politician insisted that NEED will continue to expose the theft of resources as well as any alleged attempts at fomenting war and stealing these resources. He now wants the country’s focus to shift to what is happening in Karamoja instead of the media only paying attention to a number of trivial matters and concentrating on Kampala while ignoring the rest of Uganda.

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Meanwhile, NEED’s coordinator for Karamoja is opposed to the idea of disarming the Karamojong. He says that Karamoja and guns have co-existed for many decades and that previous disarmament attempts have not helped. He says this insight should be enough for the powers that be to consider better approaches to the crisis in the sub-region. In Chero’s view, disarming the Karamojong would make them vulnerable to raids by their neighbors. “When you take guns away from Karamoja, that’s direct poverty because those other neighbors of ours have guns. You must be able to protect your cows or they will raid you and take them.”

He also claimed that about 2,000 men have been rounded up and bundled in a military detach, leaving communities vulnerable. His other allegation was that hundreds of girls and women are leaving Karamoja to beg on the streets of cities and major towns.

Asuma Odaka the National Coordinator NEED.

In order to make Karamoja safe in the midst of their cattle rustling neighbors, Chero has advised government to reinstate the vigilante program under which the Karamojong were paid some money to guard their communities. But with corruption eating up the vigilante system, it was scrapped and people told to take their cattle to military detaches for protection. The resultant, the NEED Coordinator further alleged, was the theft of cows belonging to the Karamojong. He even claimed that soldiers were involved in the illegal sale of these cows to traders from Teso, among other areas, and that he keeps wondering why government has failed to compensate the people for the loss of their cattle.

Chero was also concerned that Museveni has continued to appoint people who are not from the sub-region to be in charge of Karamoja Affairs. He says these ministers picked from other regions do not know what is happening in the region they have been appointed to oversee. He even alleged that former minister of Karamoja Affairs John Byabagambi had an office for the ministry in Ibanda and that the Karamojong had to go there to meet his personal assistant. Chero also claimed that MPs from Karamoja had turned into translators for the Ministers of Karamoja.

Asuman Odaka, the National Coordinator of NEED, claimed that ‘bombs’ were being thrown in Karamoja to ‘depopulate’ the mineral rich region. He underscored the need to connect the dots between the street children in Kampala and the situation in Karamoja, alluding to the  likelihood of someone powerful being behind the ferrying of children from the mineral-rich subregion to the streets.

The allegations by Kabuleta and his NEED pressure group are disapproving of a government that has prided itself on promoting peace and security. Kabuleta says his platform will continue to send people to investigate the suffering the Karamojong are going through so as to gather enough evidence to create awareness. (For comments on this story, get back to us on 0705579994 [whatsapp line], 0779411734 & 0200900416 or email us at





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