Like other pastoral regions in Africa, the Karamojong have long historical traditional practices to establish their reputations, recognition and build their own herds through mounting raids on other pastoral groups (neighboring districts/countries).
However, since the mid 1980’s armed violence in Karamoja has been undergoing transformation from the traditional cattle rustling to excessive violent commercialized forms of livestock theft, built on a culture of revenge and indoctrination of young people (children raised to believe and view other communities as enemies and start armed combat practice at the age of 10 years with the aid of their counter parts (Karachunas)) that later paved recognition and respect from society.
Kapel was one such youth recruited to cattle rustling. Part of a gang of thieves, Kapel would sneak to the neighboring sub counties and districts to steal animals with the aid of elderly Karachunas (youth) in early 1990s, . He commanded armed groups of Tepeth and Pokot to raid the Turkana. He said “We massively killed many women who were found in the kraal as animals were raided”. The raids become increasingly violent. In one, four of his companions were killed on the spot. As the fight intensified at “Ceele”, the Turkana warrior toughened and killed another three Karamojong warriors who fled in disarray. As a usual trade, Kapel again mounted a raid in Rupa where one of his colleagues was killed and he narrowly survived death which became a landmark for him to disband cattle rustling. He said,
“I surrendered my gun to the district authorities and became a reformed person and embrace peace”.
Kapel continued to live in fear and in hiding until WSF USAIDSAFE peace building and Reconciliation project intervention. Through the reflection meetings; Truth Telling, healing and reconciliation and outreaches, Kapels’ life changed. He then became a champion of peace and reconciliation in karamoja otherwise he would have continued living in fear of being arrested for atrocities committed. He said,
“From being a warrior of doom, I am now a warrior of peace; I shall stand at all times to ensure peace prevails in our land”.
He is one of the active members of a Drama group that advocates for peace and unity which participated in Lokiriama peace Accord, sports gala in Kapenguria Kenya where they met other tribes for the first time. Kapel and his groups now are fully engaged in the tracking and recovery of stolen livestock together with the security forces,