From the late 1970s to 2007, the Karamoja region was a no-go zone due to conflicts over cattle rustling. No one wanted to hear the word “Karamoja” during that time. The insecurity had completely hindered the region’s development, including business, until 2001 when the government launched a disarmament exercise.
The successful disarmament opened up the region to neighboring countries such as Kenya, Sudan, and Ethiopia. Currently, there is a thriving cross-border trade in beer and other building materials between the Karimojong of Uganda and the Turkana of Kenya.
This publication has learned that over 81% of the food consumed by the Turkana people in Lodwar, the main town of Turkana County, comes from Uganda via Moroto district. Turkana traders prefer crossing to Moroto to buy all their foodstuffs, drinks, and building materials. The one-hour drive (140 kilometers) from Lodwar to Moroto is a stark contrast to the eight-hour drive from Lodwar to Eldoret, covering about 500 kilometers.
Moroto district reportedly consumes up to 15,000 crates of beer per week, with 11,000 crates being transported to Turkana weekly. The most consumed brands are Nile Special, Tusker Lager, and Guineans, which Moroto traders sell to Kenyan traders at shs 60,000 per crate.
Tusker Lager and Guineans are sold at shs 35,000 per bottle, while Nile Special and Bell Lager are sold at shs 3,000. Eagle Lager is sold at shs 2,000 per bottle.
On a daily basis, more than eight Kenyan lorries transport beer from Moroto to Kenya day and night without any attacks. Mr. Patrick Lokol, one of the traders selling beer in Moroto, mentioned that he sells about 30 crates of beer a day, earning him 1,800,000.
“I am very happy for the current peace because we are benefiting a lot from cross-border trade, which we did not use to do,” he said.
Mr. John Womuno, a Uganda trader supplying vegetables to Turkana in Lodwar town, stated that engaging in cross-border business has helped him significantly, including paying fees for his children. Initially, Kenyan security officers used to disturb Ugandan traders, extorting money, but the county assembly authority of Kenya warned them not to disturb Ugandan traders.
Mr. Mathew Lorukale, a beer trader from Lodwar, noted that the current peace has made them realize true business. He mentioned that they used to incur losses while getting drinks and vegetables from Eldoret due to the insecurity between the Turkana and West Pokot herders.