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MPs call for release of Kenyans convicted, jailed in Uganda

Kenya's National Assembly building in Nairobi. Photo/Courtesy

Lawmakers are calling on the Government to act swiftly to secure the release of Kenyans incarcerated in Uganda.

This plea comes in the wake of stringent conditions laid out by President Yoweri Museveni for any discussions regarding amnesty for the detained Kenyans.

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In a statement read by the Leader of the Majority Party, Kimani Ichungwa on behalf of the Ministry of Foreign and Diaspora Affairs, Members of the National Assembly have been informed that President Yoweri Museveni has stated unequivocally that the murder of 3 Ugandan geologists’ must be resolved or reparations given to the victims’ families before any talks on amnesty for the detained Kenyans.

A Preliminary Report by the MFA Cabinet Secretary Alfred Mutua on the Court- Martialling and Conviction of Certain Kenyans in the Republic of Uganda was tabled before the National Assembly Thursday afternoon.

According to the Report, in March 2022, 8 Kenyan herders were arrested in Uganda’s Kotido region, suspected of involvement in the killing of three Ugandan geologists and two Ugandan People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) soldiers. They were tried and found guilty of possessing weapons in a Ugandan Court Martial in April 2022 and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

On April 8, 2023, the UPDF conducted a cordon and search operation within Turkana Kraals, leading to the arrest of 32 Turkana herdsmen. These individuals were swiftly tried in a court martial and sentenced to 10 years each for illegal possession of firearms and ammunition.

“Turkana Pastoralists were taken through a one-day court martial trial without any legal representation, right to appeal or right to a fair trial which is that every person should be presumed innocent until proven guilty,” decried Loima MP, Hon. Protus Akujah in a petition to the National Assembly that prompted a response by the Ministry.

Regarding the measures taken by the Kenyan Government, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has made efforts to secure the release of the Kenyan detainees have included high-level diplomatic engagements. A delegation from Kenya led by Cabinet Secretary Ms. Rebecca Miano visited Uganda in February 2023 to negotiate the release of the Turkana herders.

Members of the National Assembly learnt that the Kenya High Commission in Kampala has recently arranged for a team of Turkana leaders and KDF Liaison Officers to visit the incarcerated Kenyans in June 2023. The inmates were found to be in good health. The Kenya High Commission also distributed basic supplies to the inmates in Ugandan prisons.

“This matter escalated when H.E. President Museveni responded by issuing an Executive Order No. 3 of 2023, issued on May 18, 2023, which, among other things, gave Kenya six months to answer to the matter of the geologists’ murder, otherwise Turkanas would not be allowed to graze in Uganda,” added the Hon. Ichung’wa while reading the statement.

During the session, Lawmakers called for a comprehensive approach to address these issues and ensure the protection of Kenyan citizens and broader cross-border diplomacy between Kenya and Uganda to address issues such as cross-border conflict and border security.

“We don’t have military or security personnel on our borders, Turkana County residents keep on being arrested on the Ugandan, Ethiopian and South Sudan Borders while looking for pasture. What is the Kenyan Government doing about these borders?” asked Turkana East MP, Hon. Nixon Ngikolong.

The Turkana East legislator also added that the Turkana County Government has hired legal representation in Kampala and filed an appeal on behalf of the detainees.

The Preliminary Report further details plans underway for diplomatic talks between Dr. Alfred Mutua, Cabinet Secretary for Foreign and Diaspora Affairs and his Ugandan counterpart.

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