Kenyan Herdsmen Released After Appeals Court Finds Sentence Unfair

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Kenyan Herdsmen Released After Appeals Court Finds Sentence Unfair
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Kenyan Turkana herders receive reprieve after year-long imprisonment

A Ugandan court has overturned the 20-year sentence imposed on 32 Kenyan pastoralists in April 2023. The men were convicted by a military court in Moroto for illegal possession of firearms and ammunition.

Initial Conviction and Appeal

The herders pleaded guilty to the charges and were sentenced to 10 years in prison on each count, to be served consecutively. However, both the Kenyans and their Kenyan Member of Parliament, Protus Akuja, argued that the one-day court-martial lacked fairness and legal representation. Lawyers for the herders, claiming they were minors, further argued that the trial itself was irregular and the sentences violated the Ugandan constitution.

Court Recognizes Irregularities, Orders Release

On April 24, 2024, Judge Brig F Mugabe of the appeals court acknowledged the merits of the appeal and ordered the release of the men. Citing potential injustice in a retrial, Judge Mugabe set aside the initial court's sentence.

Context of the Arrest

The arrest of the herders occurred on April 8, 2023, in Lokiryaout village, Moroto District, Uganda. They were found with firearms and ammunition around the same time Ugandan forces entered Kenya following the murders of three Ugandan geologists and two Ugandan soldiers in Lotisan sub-county.

Unresolved Tensions

While the release of the herders offers some resolution, the underlying tensions between Uganda and Kenya regarding cross-border incidents and security remain to be addressed.

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