Uganda is located strategically, in the Great Lakes region, for providing assistance to refugees in the region. Following the outbreak of the conflict in South Sudan in 2013 and the ongoing conflict in the Congo, Uganda is presently hosting more than 350.000 refugees (UNHCR). Out of these, 250.000 refugees have arrived in the West Nile and Western Uganda since March 2013.
This puts pressure on the already scarce resources available in refugee hosting communities, and creates a pressing challenge to ensure protection of the new arrivals. At the same time, Uganda is facing post-conflict recovery in the northern region, which has been affected by rebel insurgency up until 2007. In the pastoral region of Karamoja in the North East the situation is transitioning from armed conflict to community development.
Since 1999, Danish Refugee Council (DRC)/Danish Demining Group (DDG) has worked with refugees and Iinternally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Uganda. From 2007 to 2012 DRC carried out land mine clearance in northern and western Uganda, based on which Uganda in 2012 was declared free of mines. In 2010, DRC-DDG launched operations in Karamoja, where complementary Livelihoods and Armed Violence Reduction programs are taking place. Currently, DRC-DDG is working in West Nile, South Western Uganda, Western Uganda and Karamoja.
DDG in Karamoja
Since 2010 DRC/DDG has been implementing a Community Safety Project in Karamoja with the aim of reducing armed violence. In Karamoja, DDG advocates for programs designed at early recovery rather than addressing the “permanent emergency”. The aim is to address the conflict and violence through careful community-led campaigns to change attitudes and behaviour in turn leading to alternative livelihood solutions.
The various tribes inhabiting the Karamoja Cluster have historically been in regular conflict over water, pasture and livestock. However, developments over the past few decades have made traditional conflicts more and more violent resulting not only in increased number of deaths, injuries and property being destructed, but also in limited mobility that is crucial to the pastoral lifestyle. Armed violence is today a main factor underlying the chronic poverty, vulnerability and underdevelopment of the Karamoja Cluster.
At the core of conflict and insecurity in the Karamoja Cluster is a weak or lacking state presence. The limited provision of security and the lack of credible justice systems or ‘ungoverned spaces have left the local communities little choice but to ensure their own protection and justice.
Even though the numerous forced disarmament programs by state security providers have created an environment of distrust and insecurity between civilians and security providers DDG recognises that the engagement of the security providers is central for enhancing the security situation in Karamoja.
The number of actors, causes, dynamics, and motivations of the conflicts are multiple and interlinked. To enhance cooperation between the security providers and communities and create a conducive environment for information sharing and prevention of violence DDG has initiated Monthly Regular Meetings at Sub-County level between the parties to discuss and resolve critical issues.
The meetings have managed bringing civic and military stakeholders together to discuss contentious issues like mistreatment of community members, theft during cordon and search operations, general abuse and on the other side insufficient cooperation from the communities in identifying criminal elements among themselves. Impact assessments (2012 & 2015) indicates that gradually the connection between community providers and communities is changing from mainly being characterised by fear, intimidation into a more cooperative relationship based on dialogue which supports a positive circle of improved flow of information, improved performance of security providers and improved trust.
It was initially challenging for DDG to convince the UPDF of the value of meeting with local communities on a regular basis but today both UPDF and the Uganda Police Force recognise the improved relationship and require DDG’s facilitation during inter-tribal peace meetings and extended training of officers in conflict management.
DRC-DDG Also Work Within the Areas Of:
- Livelihood and microcredit
- Water and Sanitation
- Infrastructure Development
- Armed Violence Reduction
- Protection and Community Service
- General Food Distribution
- Emergency Response
The aim of the operation in Uganda is to recreate safe environments, conducive to pursuing quality of life for displaced and conflict-affected populations in Uganda.
DRC aims to achieve this aims through following the objectives:
- Contributing to conflict reduction
- Enhancing opportunities for self-reliance
- Developing the capacity of government agencies
Further information on DRC’s activities in Uganda can be found here: https://drc.ngo/where-we-work/horn-of-africa-and-yemen/uganda/