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Benon Her­bert Oluka’s ear­li­est mem­ory, in 1989, is of being car­ried on the back of his caregiver run­ning through the woods in the dark, with food from a pot in a par­cel strapped next to him oc­ca­sion­ally spilling on his head.

The at­tacks by cat­tle herders on his vil­lage in east Uganda of­ten had res­i­dents jump­ing out of their evening baths and flee­ing with the lit­tle cloth­ing, food and chil­dren they could grab. In the years that fol­lowed, the Ugan­dan gov­ern­ment par­tially dis­armed the no­mads, but never pro­vided other op­tions. So, the prob­lem never went away. And they are back. With a vengeance.

The no­madic herders be­came part of Uganda’s civil war. Rub­bing shoul­ders with rebels in So­ma­lia, South Su­dan and Uganda’s north, and ac­cess­ing small arms chan­nels in the re­gion, the cat­tle-herd­ing tribes of Karamoja fought over pas­ture with one an­other and the Ugan­dan army. But Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Re­sis­tance Army drew the mil­i­tary up north, away from the ‘wild east’; to­day, armed men use Karamoja cat­tle routes across the borders of Uganda, Kenya and South Su­dan.

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