TOP
Tuesday,August 11,2020 23:18 PM
  • Home
  • Archive
  • Karamoja disarmament, devt should go together

Karamoja disarmament, devt should go together

By Vision Reporter

Added 23rd November 2006 03:00 AM

THE Karimojong own over 40,000 guns, and this is believed to be the source of insecurity in north and eastern Uganda.
The “Karimojong problem” dates back to colonial times, but successive Ugandan governments have over the 44 years held old prejudices towards pastoralist people.

THE Karimojong own over 40,000 guns, and this is believed to be the source of insecurity in north and eastern Uganda.
The “Karimojong problem” dates back to colonial times, but successive Ugandan governments have over the 44 years held old prejudices towards pastoralist people.

By Yatman Cheng

THE Karimojong own over 40,000 guns, and this is believed to be the source of insecurity in north and eastern Uganda.
The “Karimojong problem” dates back to colonial times, but successive Ugandan governments have over the 44 years held old prejudices towards pastoralist people.

Although many Karimojong have clearly expressed their desire for peace and advised on the means to achieve it, the current government has failed to listen and to act accordingly. The current disarmament exercise treats symptoms rather than the root causes of insecurity. Peacebuilding is much more than mere disarmament.

Disastrous policies and disarmament exercises

Many Ugandans appear to regard the Karimojong as primitive people resistant to change, but it is little known that the Jie in today’s Kotido had a nascent state in the 19th century. Threatened by the Jie, the colonial government used its neighbours to destroy the state. The colonial government also displaced the Pokot from Kenya and resettled them in eastern Karamoja, increasing competition for precious land. Then the colonial government closed off the area and drew national and district boundaries that restricted the movement of the Karimojong within and outside of Karamoja. Vast areas were also gazetted for conservation. Today, 36 percent of Karamoja is game and forest reserves and the rest a controlled hunting area.

The colonial government drastically reduced the area of grazing land available to the pastoralists, disrupted their pattern of mobility and introduced more population. These misguided policies increased the already fierce competition for pasture and water in an ecologically fragile area.

Post-colonial governments did not help the situation. Amin’s soldiers killed tens of thousands of Karimojong for refusing to wear western clothing. Obote continued the colonial policy of conservationism and created Kidepo National Park, which further restricted available grazing land.

According to a report of the Minority Rights Group International, “there have been many attempts to disarm the pastoralists… Disarmament has no chance of success in a region where the state cannot provide physical security… However, total failure has not stopped the state from trying. Every administration in Uganda has launched alternate pacification and disarmament campaigns in Karamoja.”

So why does the current government think it is going to work this time? In a press interview last year, the then Minister for Karamoja Affairs, Peter Lokeris, said that previous disarmament attempts “"did not consult. We just saw gun ships rolling over and demanding we surrender our guns and this ended dramatically with a drastic failure.” Is the current exercise different? Have the people been consulted? Is it a peaceful and voluntary rather than forceful exercise?

A press release issued by Karimojong MPs recently pointed out that “what the UPDF is conducting now is no longer the disarmament programme as discussed and agreed with the government but purely a military operation… UPDF officers and men on ground have abandoned the participatory approach the community and other stakeholders agreed upon… to many in Karamoja, the current UPDF action is a betrayal of a people.”

The consultations

Mao Zedong infamously said, “We accept your opinions but we continue our actions.” This saying seem to hold in Karamoja. In 2005, the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) undertook broad consultations with the Karimojong about peacebuilding. The result was the Karamoja Integrated Disarmament and Development Programme (KIDDP). As its name suggests, it asserts that disarmament and development must go hand in hand if sustainable peace is to be achieved. To date, 17 months after it was first articulated, KIDDP has not been implemented.

Peacebuilding is more than a military exercise

Examining the ways different state institutions have been dealing with the Karimojong problem, one wonders about the degree of coordination and cooperation between them. Gen. Aronda has said “the office of the prime minister has a parallel programme of starting development projects… whether the prime minister has started or not, full disarmament will not be held back.”

Thus the UPDF seems to be acting independently without regard to the widely agreed view that the Karimojong problem is multi-faceted and therefore requires a much more nuanced conflict transformation approach that goes beyond a narrow military solution.

According to John Paul Lederach, an expert in conflict transformation, peacebuilding requires an examination of the root causes of the crisis and establishment of a vision for future social structures and relationships between conflicting groups. Short-term interventions must be based upon understanding of past injustices and a desired vision of the future. To understand a people’s past and envision their future, the key is to consult the community and act accordingly. Peacebuilding focuses on people and relationships. It is necessary to identify, connect and support those who oppose violence. Those who engage in violence should be isolated from those who do not want violence. Peacebuilding tips the balance of power in favour of the majority who want peace and yet are powerless.

The current disarmament exercise and indeed falls short of the above description. The disarmament exercise has not discriminated between those who desire peace and those who do not. Its cordon-and-search operations round up all males found in a village, compelling them to produce guns. Sometimes, women and elderly are also detained. Instead of building a peace constituency supportive of government efforts to isolate the culprits, it has alienated and disempowered an initially hopeful population. The disarmament exercise, disconnected as it currently is from its development counterpart, provides few positive incentives for those with guns to disarm. The violence committed by Karimojong warriors is inexcusable.

Most Karimojong are in favour of disarmament. Disarmament is necessary, but in its current form it is counter-productive. Disarmament must go hand-in-hand with development and provision of security and be guided by principles of peacebuilding and conflict transformation. The current disarmament will join the long list of previous failed efforts if the government does not reverse course and start taking the voices of the Karimojong seriously.

The writer is an Intern in Amnesty International Africa Regional Office, Kampala

Karamoja disarmament, devt should go together

Related articles

More From The Author

More From The Author