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I Wont Allow My Children to Follow My Footsteps: Reformed Rustler

According to Lotukei, instead of touching a gun, he rather touches a needle for injecting animals, which have changed his life. Lotukei thanked the government of Uganda for removing guns from them, saying they did not know that guns were blocking them from enjoying other development projects.
Mr.Lotukei in blue overall with a friend treating animals in Musasi parish in Moroto district last year in December
30-year-old Paul Lotukei, a resident of Nakambi village in Moroto district is a reformed cattle rustler. He was arrested and tortured by the army in 2009.   He was released after surrendering a firearm to the army. 

Life became hard for Lotukei after losing the gun. He resorted to burning charcoal for survival. However, while cutting trees one day, warriors shot and injured him. This did not end life for Lotukei and his family.   

When the UN Food and Agriculture Organization called for applicants to train as community animal health workers in 2014, Lotukei seized the opportunity. He told URN that he does not have any interest in a firearm anymore because of the suffering he went through.   Lotukei leaves his home at 7 am each day to treat sick animals for a small fee. 

According to Lotukei, he works from 8 am until 6 pm because the animals are many and he is the only Community Animal health worker in Musasi parish in Katikekile Sub County in Moroto district.

"If I had realized this kind of support when I was growing up. I would not have picked the gun and destabilized my brothers the Turkana and Karamojong, “he said. According to Lotukei, the knowledge that he acquired as a community animal health worker has helped him to take care of his family.   

"I wasted my time with cattle rustling by now I would be a rich man; I was the second in command of the Matheniko cattle rustlers. In 1999, 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 2hrs but we overpowered them. We continued with the journey, but as we reached Nakonyen in Moroto, we landed in an ambush organized by Ugandan's army, that was a mother of the fight and I will not forget it for the rest of my life,” he said.     

He said they exchanged fire with the soldiers for about 3hrs and they managed to kill eight UPDF soldiers and lost 13 rustlers. He, however, says they managed to overcome the army and went with all the 400 cattle that they had raided. 

 

"The cattle that we raided even I didn't keep them, the army collected them and handed them over to Turkana. The army started looking for me seriously and my relatives encouraged me to meet the army. I pleaded to be forgiven and the army indeed forgave me till now," he said.   

According to Lotukei, instead of touching a gun, he rather touches a needle for injecting animals, which have changed his life. Lotukei thanked the government of Uganda for removing guns from them, saying they did not know that guns were blocking them from enjoying other development projects.

"For me, I didn't know that there will be better life after a gun because it’s something that I got my parents doing. I don't want my children to follow it anymore and suffer the way I suffered out of ignorance," he said.

He said he has built a permanent house of two bedrooms in his home village to prove to other warriors who are still handling guns in the bush that there is better life other than cattle rustling and ambushing vehicles.

Lotukei appeals to his colleagues who are still hiding in the bushes and his brothers the Turkana who are still armed to hand over their guns and embark on productive activities that cannot make them die and miss their families. 

Mark Longora, an elder and resident of Musasi village, whose benefits from Lotukei’s services, hailed him for his work, saying the knowledge that Lotukei got has saved their livestock in the parish. 

"As you are aware that most of the people working in Moroto and Karamoja at a large are not natives so they fear to move deep in the villages to treat animals but Lotukei is doing a good job to save animals because he moves alone and he has made himself known," he said.

Mary Akorio, a mother of seven whose cows were treated by Lotukei, says that at first, they did not trust Lotukei because he was a terrible raider. “When he was beginning to treat animals, we were scared that he might be marking animals to raid since he's someone who never even stepped in primary one but he treated our animal. When our sick animals became well, he became friendly,” he said.   

Joseph Lokol, another pastoralists whose animals are being treated by Lotukei told URN that they have given the former rustler the title of doctor even if he has never gone to school. "Lotukei is better than those who went to study animal medicine because he can tell the disease attacking animals and give correct drugs and dosage without any mistake," he said.

Mark Musoka Aol, the former Moroto District LC V chairperson, says the people of Karamoja need practical skills that can help to transform their daily lives. He calls upon development partners to focus on the project that can promote self-reliance than giving handouts.