For the past 98 days the Control Arms campaign has run this series of Daily Features to showcase actions and support by campaigners, advocates, survivors, government leaders, religious figures, and ordinary people seeking to save lives and livelihoods through the adopting of a strong Arms Trade Treaty. Along the way, hundreds of thousands of people have spoken out and lent their voice to this historical campaign.
To conclude the 100 Days of Speaking out, we feature a segment from Julius Arile, the Control Arms coalition’s 1 millionth supporter. Watch the video and read below to learn how Julius found a better life than the one he was headed toward when he bought his first gun.
The following excerpt was taken from Julius Arile’s blog:
“I was 17 when I bought my first gun. It was an AK-47, and I had to use it many times to protect my cows, which are so important for the lives of people in Pokot.
I had gone to school until Standard Eight (about 13-14 years old). Then the Karamojong (a tribe from neighbouring Uganda) raided and took our animals, and that became the end of my education. They stole 60 of our 70 cows, and I had to start looking after the remaining 10. My older brother Solomon, about 35 years old, was shot and killed in one of these raids.
It was easy to find guns – there were lots coming from Uganda. I bought my gun from a trader for five cows. There were many other raids. I lost count of the number of times we raided the Karamojong and they raided us. Between 50 to 100 of us used to fight at a time, and anybody can die at anytime.
In 2002 the Karamojong raided again. We fought a battle with them that lasted the whole day. We killed some of the Karamojong and they didn’t take any cattle this time. But my friend was shot and killed right beside me. After that day I moved to a new place, further away from the border. I knew
I could be next to die, like my friends and my brother, if I carried on fighting.
In 2003 I first heard about the Peace Races organised by Tegla Loroupe (a Kenyan marathon world-record holder, also from West Pokot). That changed my life.
I had never run in a race before, but I won and I got the prize money. In 2004 I gave up my gun. Most of my friends understood, but some thought it cowardly. My wife Julia was happy. I used to spend 4-6 months at a time in the bush, looking after the cattle and not seeing my family. This was our normal way of life.
I became a peacemaker instead of a warrior. I encouraged other young boys to start running in the peace races. I told them, “forget about the cows, remember you are alive.”
In 2006 I started running properly. At first I ran marathons along the road with “shoes” cut from old tyres. These were all we had.
I went to New York to speak to people about why an Arms Trade Treaty is so important to us. I met Kofi Annan (the UN Secretary General at the time) and the late Kenyan MP John Michuki. At the time the Kenyan government had sent troops to Pokot to disarm communities. It was very violent. I told him that the only way to disarm people is to get them to give up the guns voluntarily, not through force. The Arms Trade Treaty will help cut off the supply of weapons.
New York was my first time outside Kenya. I was amazed by all the tall buildings. It was so different to Pokot! It was there I got my first pair of proper running shoes. I still have them at home.
Now my goal is to run and get a world record. I ran my first proper marathon in 2 hours and 12 minutes (the world record is currently 2 hours, 3 minutes, 38 seconds). My next marathon is in October in Holland, and I’m hoping to run in 2 hours and 5 minutes. I’m getting faster.
In the past few years I’ve run races in Poland, Morocco, Germany and the US and China, which was very hot. These places are very different to my home. I moved to Iten, a small town in Kenya where all the champion runners train. There are now six of us reformed warriors from Pokot training here. Some of them have run faster times than I have. I’m very proud.
We get up at 6am every morning to train. The length and routes vary on different days. Some days we go jogging; some days we run 20kms. Other days we go to the track and do speed work. We sprint for 2 minutes, then jog for 1 minute. On Saturdays we run for two hours.
I love my home in West Pokot. It’s a beautiful area and I will return here after I retire from running. But there are few opportunities here for my children and other young people. Children grow up with cattle and guns as their only options in life. My children go to school in the local villages. I hope they will go further than I did and go on to secondary school and university, and then get good jobs in Nairobi (the Kenyan capital).
My aim is to end small arms in my area. I tell people to change and get a better life and a real future. That’s why I’m going back to New York this month – to tell world leaders that an Arms Trade Treaty will help us have a better life. I will be very happy and celebrating if the Treaty is achieved. We will have a big party in Pokot!”
Join Julius and countless others around the world to demand a bulletproof Arms Trade Treaty today!