Help us protect our vanilla, ex-rebels ask government

A group of former Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels who denounced rebellion and were reunited to their families in Kitholhu sub-county Kasese district have demanded for protection as government provides them with vanilla vines for planting.

Gilbert Baluku, one of the project beneficiaries, noted with concern that vanilla growing in Kasese has been at the centre of many domestic wrangles, sometimes resulting in death.

“As government brings us this high-value crop for planting, it should also know that it has been a centre for conflicts and killings as couples and children try to steal it during harvesting,” Baluku said.

He appealed to government to provide the ex- rebels with training on how to harmoniously plan for and manage the crop to avoid conflicts come harvest time.

Government, through the Amnesty Commission, on Tuesday last week distributed vanilla vines to more than 50 ex-ADF combatants in Kitholhu sub-county at the –Kasese-DRC border in order to boost their household incomes.

According to Msgr. Thomas Kisembo, the Commissioner, Amnesty Commission, the aim of giving the ex-combatants the high-value crop was to empower them and provide them with alternatives so that they would not be lured back into rebel activities.

Kisembo warned the ex-rebels against getting back to war, and urged them to focus instead on developmental projects that would help their embattled families, saying that the income from the project would help them improve their livelihoods.

“We have given you this vanilla in order to increase your wealth and not to be fooled by politicians who are only seeking political gain. As we enter into this political season, concentrate on your economic activities and do not be diverted by anyone,” he appealed.

The Commissioner’s concern about the possible return to violence by the ex-combatants was echoed by other speakers at the event, with many stressing the need to embrace peace.

Capt. Ronald Sekatawa, the Chief Mobiliser for Amnesty Commission, advised beneficiaries to avoid fighting over political differences.

“We (Amnesty Commission) have been on the ground with the security agencies, monitoring their (ex-combatants’) operations. That is the reason we are engaging them now- so that they do not get diverted again,” he said.

Ssekatawa added that the Commission has formed an alliance with security agencies to protect the beneficiaries from being used to fight against the government during election time.

Kitholhu is one the sub-counties in Kasese where Allied Democratic Forces had deep roots in the late 1990s and has been a cause for concern to the security forces in the district since then.

Obed Masereka, another beneficiary, applauded the commission for the vanilla initiative, which he said would get the ex-rebels out of poverty after they “wasted a lot of time in the bush”.

The Amnesty Commission has distributed vanilla vines to more than 200 ex-combatants in Mahango ,Bugoye , Mpondwe and Kitholhu sub-counties since the year begun.

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