TCF funded the AVR programme in Moroto Karamoja during the years 2017 – 2019.
The Danish Demining Group first began its operations in Uganda in 2007 and worked in close collaboration with the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) and Uganda Police Force (UPF) in northern and western Uganda on landmine/explosive remnants of war (ERW) clearance. Thanks to efforts in which DDG played a central role, Uganda was declared mine-free in 2012. Following its mine and ERW clearance activities, DDG expanded to the Karamoja Region in 2010 with an Armed Violence Reduction (AVR) programme.
DDG’s AVR programme in Karamoja sought to improve community safety through a people-centred, conflict sensitive and evidence-based approach. Conflict and security assessments at the time showed the persistence of three main types of conflict: armed livestock raiding; conflict and mistrust between communities and security providers; and conflict within clans, communities and families
During the past decade of DDG’s presence in Karamoja, the conflict and security profile drastically changed due in part to large-scale infrastructure developments, shifting livelihoods and economic strategies, and rapid urbanisation. Today, Karamoja finds itself mostly secure, largely free of weapons, and experiencing only small-scale theft and low-level raiding. Widespread exploration and exploitation of natural resources, especially minerals such as limestone, marble and gold, have been accompanied by their own set of challenges and conflict now mainly revolves around access to and rights over land, mineral rights and politically-driven contestations. Lack of support to livestock development has meant the steady deterioration of this important, climatically-adapted livelihood and a shift toward regular agriculture, petty trade, informal employment and artisanal and small-scale mining8. Once neglected, Karamoja has become a haven for investors, from construction to mining.
Component 1: Community Safety Planning
Among the first interventions in Karamoja was DDG’s community safety planning (CSP), a process in which the community both defines their challenges and priority areas in which they will focus their efforts, thus consolidating community ownership.
Component 2: Capacity Building of Communities and Security Providers
Given the proliferation and use of SALW in Karamoja in the years preceding the forced disarmament campaigns and the need to end local and interpersonal conflicts, DDG’s conflict management education (CME) toolkit was extensively used and earnestly appreciated by communities in Karamoja. The CME toolkit supports people in identifying and relieving tension, isolating key factors in conflict and employ successful mediation techniques. Civilians who are trained and armed by the UPDF to ensure security and the rule of law in places with relatively low security provider presence in the communities they serve.
Component 3: Small Arms/Light Weapons (SALW) Awareness
The SALW awareness raising took the form of direct sensitisation sessions focusing on the dangers and negative impact of firearms; SALW-related drama; and radio programmes. The drama component was particularly popular among communities, partly because of the direct community engagement required to conduct it, wherein community groups of around 15 people were selected and trained to perform the sessions. These groups travelled to other villages within their districts to conduct performances, reaching wide audiences – over 20,000 people throughout the lifespan of the programme.
Component 4: Dialogue Forums
DDG has organized hundreds of dialogue forums in Karamoja with the aim of establishing or re-establishing peace and convivial relations between groups of individuals. These dialogues fall under two main categories: (1) dialogues between security providers, communities and local authorities, (2) dialogues within and between different communities.
A salient innovation of DDG’s security governance work globally is the community-security provider dialogue and cooperation (CSPDC), which was born out of the Karamoja programme. Regular dialogues between the security providers (army and police), local authorities and community members provided the space for rebuilding of these eroded relationships (from the time of disarmament) and are widely understood to have improved the relationship, coordination and cooperation between the three actors.
Moroto UPF demonstrated how to use a crime reporting form at meetings, which increased the utilization of these forms by the community and thus the reporting of crimes. It also led to improved coordination and response to threats and has contributed to a reduction in crime. The meetings also give the communities, authorities, and police an opportunity to discuss community issues like female genital cutting, alcohol abuse, and street children and develop joint solutions. A local government representative noted that by holding regular meetings and incorporating all stakeholders in the discussions, each group’s role in developing solutions was reinforced: “Every month they had to face up to the accountability – if you don’t do something you will be called out.”
Component 5: Cross-Border Security Management and Dialogue
Communities in Karamoja are intimately linked to those across the border in Kenya (particularly Turkana and Pokot) historically and socio-culturally. These communities have had alternately amiable and hostile relations, which have frequently turned violent, causing loss of lives and livelihoods on both sides. The power imbalance borne out of the lack of disarmament in Kenya left Karamoja’s communities vulnerable to attacks from across the border.
In these dialogues, sharing of natural resources was proposed as a way forward to promote peaceful coexistence. Other proposed cross-border initiatives were sporting events, cross border education, trade, joint water points and market days.
DDG Uganda and Kenya worked in close coordination to achieve a coordinated border security management programme. Some successes of the programme include establishment and strengthening of community security teams and joint community meetings to mitigate border security issues. Importantly, leaders of the two countries came together within the ambit of this programme to discuss policy issues around cross-border movement, conflict and resource sharing.