Presidents Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and his Kenya counterpart Uhuru Kenyatta, on Thursday signed a joint Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to strengthen cross-border cooperation between Kenya and Uganda.
The duo also witnessed the signing of a joint Memorandum of Understanding between the two governments to ensure cross-border programme for sustainable peace and socio-economic transformation among the pastoralist communities of the Karimojong of Uganda the Turkana and West Pokot of Kenya.
On behalf of Uganda, the Minister for Karamoja Affairs John Byabagambi and Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Devolution, Eugene Wamalwa signed for their respective governments at the ceremonies that took place on Thursday at Naitakwae Grounds near Moroto Municipality in Moroto District.
The Prime objectives of the arrangements is for the pastoralist communities in Uganda and Kenya to increase non-violent inter-ethnic interactions and collaborations, reduce tensions and competition over access to resources such as water and pasture, eliminate illegal flow of small arms and light weapons to the region and to increase cross border trade and investment.
Other objectives include improving livelihoods, food security, nutrition and support for basic social services, improvement of infrastructure to facilitate cross- border movement of persons and animals, among others.
Addressing public rally after the ceremonies, President Museveni said that when the National Resistance Movement (NRM) took power in 1986, Karamoja Sub-Region’s hindrances to development were insecurity arising out of gun misuse, lack of water for both people and animals. He, however, noted that the institution of Karamoja Development Agency (KDA) and the disarmament enforcement by NRM made peace to prevail in the area.
“Disarmament, alongside national immunization campaign, led to population growth that has encouraged government to steer development in the region,” he said.
He stressed the need for government to mobilize for investment and industrialization in Karamoja saying that the area is rich in natural resources such as limestone (300 million tonnes) for cement and marble production, fruit processing, leather tanning, meat processing, honey production, gold mining and tourism.
He advised the people of Karamoja to utilise communal water in the valley dams that the government has put in place to keep and preserve more indigenous animal breeds and carry out irrigation to produce more crops and fruits.
Mr. Museveni thanked President Uhuru for his input in the struggle for the unification of African states. He also commended United Nations agencies like the World Food Programme (WFP) for the advocacy for food relief and roads’ construction connecting Kenya and Uganda. He, however, appealed to UN bodies for resources for building a road connecting Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia.
President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, on his part, thanked his host for the tremendous contribution to regional socio-economic and political development. He castigated colonialism for dividing the people of Africa using artificial borderlines. “Let’s now enforce free movement of people and goods in our sister countries. It’s where prosperity comes from. Africa is ours and for us Africans,” he added.
President Uhuru Kenyatta cautioned people in the region that if they do not trade and move freely, they cannot create wealth and prosperity noting that inactivity in embracing trade and free movement would only lead to the institutionalization of poverty.
On behalf of the United Nations Secretary General, the UN Country Resident Coordinator in Uganda Rosa Malango noted that the joint effort for the just launched program, spells a historical day for Kenya and Uganda. Ms Malango.
The UN Country Resident Coordinators of Uganda and Kenya, along with the UNDP Resident Representatives in both countries handed over communications gadgets to peace committees to enable the committees monitor the implementing of the programme.
Karamoja Affairs Minister, John Byabagambi, thanked the 2 Presidents for their commitment to the welfare of people. He also commended the UNDP programme coordinators in Uganda and Kenya for the US$950,000 to the programme.
The Governors of West Pokot and Turkana were praised for mobilizing their communities to foster peace and harmony; as Moroto District Chairperson, Napaja Andrew Keem, lauded Presidents Museveni and Uhuru Kenyatta for the realization of the programme in so short a time.