Monday, November 24, 2008

A Look at the Uganda Situation: Conflict, Displacement and Return

Geetisha Dasgupta

Northern Uganda has for long suffered from internal conflicts resulting in huge number of displacements. The conflict stems from reasons long drawn: under the British, the north was the labour reserve for the plantations in the south. However, following independence, power in government was progressively consolidated among politicians of northern origin. This was due, partially, to the fact that most Ugandans have come to identify themselves with their ethnic group rather than with citizenship of the Ugandan nation state. Though most of Uganda has been pacified with the passage of time, places like Acholiland continue to remain outside the peace bubble. There have been displacements in Acholiland, Lango and Teso regions, especially in the Lira district.

Karamoja is one of the principal problem areas, where there is no one single identifiable reason for the skirmishes. The Karimojong have had long, intermittent, unpredictable conflicts amongst themselves. The principal cause however continues to be underdevelopment, perpetual poverty and insecurities. All these factors re-inforce each other. Lawlessness and human rights violation, food deficits, poor governance, break with traditional governance and inadequate consolidation with modern governing practices, unbridled arms sale, depletion of productivity, recurrent drought and famine, together with cultural, economic and social factors trigger the violence.

Until a few days ago, out-migration of Karimojong to neighbouring districts, specifically Pader, was reportedly on the increase, with substantial presences of Karimojong from Kotido District reported in the border sub-counties of Paimol, Lapono and Adilang of Pader District. Population movements now occurred even outside the habitual migration season, in December or January, when people move for work reasons. The primary reason cited for the increased out-migration at this unusual hour was hunger and the lack of food, or employment to earn money to buy food, within Karamoja. Authorities in Kacheri sub-county estimated that 2,000 people have left the sub-county for Pader, while estimates from Rengen sub-county suggest that over 1,000 people have left in a span of three months.

However, of late, improvements in the security situation in northern Uganda have allowed about half of the more than 1.8 million people who had been internally displaced by the conflict to return to their villages, while another quarter have moved to transit sites nearer to their homes. While the peace process has stalled due to the repeated failure by the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, Joseph Kony, to sign a Final Peace Agreement, the security situation in northern Uganda has much improved since the signing of a Cessation of Hostilities Agreement between the government of Uganda and the LRA in August 2006. Large numbers of internally displaced people (IDPs) have already returned to their villages, while others are in the process of doing so.

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1 comment:

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