In the 50 years since independence, Uganda has experienced multiple armed conflicts with serious economic and social consequences. As the country recovers from this history, continued social divisions and increased economic resources (including the discovery of oil) pose new challenges to democracy, good governance and the accountability of the security services.
President Museveni’s National Resistance Movement government took power in 1986 after a five-year armed struggle and a succession of violent regime changes. The NRM promised stability and prosperity for all, but continued to face armed challenges for the first years of its rule. The most serious of these was the 20-year conflict with the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), which caused tens of thousands of deaths and injuries, displacement of more than 1.5 million people into camps and the abduction of an estimated 30,000 children.
Today, the LRA has been dislodged to neighbouring countries where it continues to attack civilians. After its departure from Uganda, the northern region has normalised to a large degree, but remains affected by the consequences of the war. Major issues include land conflicts (made worse by the discovery of oil), ethnic and regional tensions, sexual and gender-based violence and high youth unemployment. Although national statistics indicate that Uganda’s economy is growing fast, social indicators remain low across the north with poverty levels below the national average.
Some of the worst statistics apply to the Karamoja region in the northeast, which was affected by the LRA conflict and has also experienced other cycles of violence and instability over the years. While organised cattle raids, mainly between different ethnic groups, have always been regarded as a legitimate way of re-stocking, the easy availability of small arms in the past decade has escalated the levels of violence and encouraged criminal behaviour. Increased security force deployment has significantly contributed to improved safety in the region, but some heavy-handed civilian disarmament efforts in the past have also damaged relations with communities.
Important government and international investments have been made to help LRA-affected areas recover and to stimulate development in Karamoja. But there are some worrying signs emerging in terms of political governance in the country, with the government taking steps to reduce freedom of expression and association, and with increasing accusations of government corruption and manipulation of resources at national and local levels.
Saferworld has been working in Uganda since 2001. Our main focus has been on supporting civil society involvement in conflict prevention and security provision, conflict-sensitive approaches to development, and advocating stronger national and regional controls on small arms and light weapons.
Supporting conflict-sensitive development in northern Uganda
We are a member of the Advisory Consortium on Conflict Sensitivity, a consortium supported by the UK Department for International Development to ensure that their Post-Conflict Development Programme in northern Uganda effectively addresses the drivers of conflict and contributes to building peace. Our role in the consortium is to promote evidence-based advocacy and provide conflict sensitivity advice and training to government and non-government actors involved in recovery programmes in northern Uganda. We are also providing technical assistance to Irish Aid to help minimise the risks that the programmes they support in Karamoja inadvertently fuels rather than reduces conflict.
Karamoja conflict and security assessment
Building on our in-depth 2010 conflict and security assessment, in 2011-12 we analysed how a number of priority conflict and security dynamics had developed in Karamoja, a region where cattle raiding and small arms proliferation causes frequent violence and insecurity. This research was undertaken as part of the EC-funded People’s Peacemaking Perspectives project.
This map is intended for illustrative purposes only. Saferworld takes no position on whether this representation is legally or politically valid.
Watch a video about how Saferworld consulted local people for a conflict and security assessment of the volatile Karamoja region in north-eastern Uganda.
Winner of the professional strand of the 2010 Guardian International Development Journalism Competition, Simon Akam, reports from Uganda on the brutal disarmament of Karamoja.