About 300 Police officers have in the past 18 months deserted or are missing from their duty stations in Karamoja.
A source close to the subject says that hundreds of officers are discontented over delayed salaries, low pay and shortage of accommodation citing the high cost of living in the sub region. He explains that government paid one month salary in the banks but loan officers grabbed all the money.
Irene Aceng, the Karamoja Police spokesperson could neither confirm nor deny the reported desertions. She says it’s true some officers left the sub region in the past one and half years. She also notes that lists had been submitted to Police headquarters for scrutiny. Aceng attributes the desertions to several reasons ranging from personal concerns to economic issues. She explains that the police officers offer pass leaves that are not beyond 21. She goes on to say if an officer does not report within the stipulated days, they will be considered a deserter.
Okot Obwona, the Regional Police Commander –Mt. Moroto area admits a total of 101 officers to have deserted saying they have embarked on the manhunt for the deserters. He adds that the police have put several steps in place to have the officers disciplined. Obwona notes that the intelligence reports had it that others had turned to riding commercial motorbikes commonly known as boda boda, adding that they face arrest. He goes on to say that their salaries may be halted with time if there is no response. He however ruled out shortage of accommodation.
The mass desertion arrives at a time when the police is expected to conduct a severe community policing programme. The move aims at the restoration of law and order in the sub region once characterized by decades of armed conflicts and cattle rustling.
So far 12 police officers have been arrested in the last three weeks for desertion and are in court.