News, Photos & Video › On International Day of Peace, International Rescue Committee Calls for Bolstering of Peace-Building Efforts in Northeastern Uganda
On International Day of Peace, International Rescue Committee Calls for Bolstering of Peace-Building Efforts in Northeastern Uganda
Kampala, Uganda — More engagement and funding are needed to support conflict-prevention initiatives in northeastern Uganda – a region historically wracked by violent raids – at a time when severe drought and increased banditry pose a challenge to the area’s fragile stability, says the International Rescue Committee (IRC).
“In the past, large-scale cattle-raiding has been part and parcel of the culture in Karamoja,” says IRC conflict expert Abongi Patrick. “Groups of 50 or more men would launch vicious attacks on rival clans, stealing thousands of heads of cattle and killing anyone who tried to stop them.”
Such incidents have been dramatically reduced in recent years thanks to a substantial peace-building effort, according to Abongi. “However we are now seeing an epidemic of petty thievery emerging instead – youth stealing half a dozen cattle, food or household items – and this threatens to undermine long-term peace,” he adds.
The root cause of this growing insecurity is poverty. There are very few employment opportunities available in Karamoja and a severe drought this year has left many without food on their table.
“Desperate people often take desperate measures,” says Abongi. “So they need help to gain financial independence and access to income-generating schemes, as well as advice on improved farming techniques to increase production.”
The IRC recently launched a new program in Karamoja to improve farm production while also supporting the livestock sector. The IRC will help farmers add value to their harvest and train community animal-health workers in best practices.
The IRC has been providing assistance in Karamoja since 2002 and has played a key role in reducing conflict by establishing a network of 16 peace committees. These committees are made up of men, women and young people, including many former raiders, who hold regular meetings to discourage raiding.
“I lost two friends to raiders, so I wanted to stop the killing,” says one committee member. “I tell young men not to go on raids. You should give everyone the chance to grow up and make something of themselves.”
Through the work of the IRC peace committees, rival clans have been able to find common ground over traditionally inflammatory areas such as grazing rights. Some former enemies have even established joint “kraals”, which are large pens to hold cattle. The committees also helped establish an animal tracking and return network, which enables communities to recover livestock stolen during raids.
As the world marks the International Day of Peace, it’s vital that northeastern Uganda receives more investment to ensure such successful peace-building efforts continue.
The IRC’s peace committees will be taking part in formal peace day celebrations in Kotido District, Karamoja, where the guest of honor is expected to be First Lady and State Minister for Karamoja Janet Museveni. Participants will celebrate the theme of Peace, Recovery and Development by marching, singing, dancing and performing dramas about conflict reduction.
For more information, please contact:
Regional Media Manager, Nairobi: +254 (0) 737 800 028.
Deputy Director - Programs, Kampala: +256 (0) 772 766 543.
Notes to editors:
• The International Day of Peace was established by the UN General Assembly in 1981 for “commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace within and among all nations and people.”
About the International Rescue Committee: A global leader in humanitarian assistance, the International Rescue Committee works in over 40 countries offering help and hope to refugees and others uprooted by conflict and oppression. During crises, IRC teams provide health care, shelter, clean water, sanitation, learning programs for children and special aid for women. As emergencies subside, the IRC stays to revive livelihoods and help shattered communities recover and rebuild. The IRC also helps resettle refugees admitted into the United States. A tireless advocate for the most vulnerable, the IRC is committed to restoring hope, dignity and opportunity. For more information, visit www.theIRC.org.