Rediscovering Traditional Peacebuilding Practices in Post War Northern Uganda

Master's Thesis, 2009

174 Pages


Table of Contents



1.1.1 The Early Years and Fears
1.1.2 Coming of Age
1.3.1 Peace
1.3.2 Peacebuilding
1.3.3 Traditional Peacebuilding Practises
1.3.4 Modern Peacebuilding Practises
1.3.5 System(s)
1.9.1 Research Process and Methods
1.9.2 The Research Location
1.9.3 Ethical Standards
1.9.4 Data Reduction and Analysis
1.9.5 Reporting
1.10.1 Conflict versus Peace in Uganda
1.10.2 Peacebuilding
1.10.3 Post War Development

2.1.1 Pre-Colonial Times
2.1.2 Colonial Times
2.1.3 Post Colonial Times
2.1.4 The Entry of Museveni´s Government and the Outbreak of the 22 Year War
2.2.1 Political Attempts
2.2.2 Legal Attempts
2.2.3 Developmental Attempts
2.2.4 Peacebuilding Attempts
2.2.5 Peace Making Attempts
2.3.1 Government Views
2.3.2 Views of Civil Society Organisations
2.3.3 Views of the Victims
2.3.4 The Present

3.1.1 Traditional Peacebuilding Practices in Pre-Colonial Lango Society
3.1.2 The Current Traditional Peacebuilding Practices in Lango Society
3.1.3 The case for the Development of Hybrid Practices of Peacebuilding
3.1.4 Community Initiatives from Traditional Peacebuilding Practices in Lango Society
3.2.1 Traditional Practices in Pre-Colonial Acholi Society
3.2.2 The Advent of Colonialism and Thereafter
3.2.3 Comparing Acholi and Lango Traditional Practices
3.3.1 Traditional Practices in Pre-Colonial Teso
3.3.2 The Lasting Effect of Colonialism on Teso Traditional Practices
3.3.3 Comparing Lango and Iteso Traditional Practices of Peacebuilding
3.4.1 The History of Violence in Karamojong Society
3.4.2 The Culture of Peace
3.5.1 Traditional Practcses of Peacebuilding in Buganda Society
3.5.2 Traditional Practices of Peacebuilding in Ankole
3.6.1 An Outline of a Framework
3.6.2 A Call to Integrate Traditional Practices within National Programmes

4.2.1 Pacification
4.2.3 Peace Talks
4.2.4 Media Peacebuilding
4.2.5 Government Peacebuilding Projects
4.2.6 Peace Education
4.2.7 Justice before Peace or Peace before Justice
4.2.9 Researching for Peace
4.3.1 Source
4.3.2 Nature
4.3.3 Ownership
4.3.4 Funding
4.3.5 Effectiveness
4.3.6 Skills and knowhow
4.3.7 Acceptability by beneficiaries and donors
4.3.8 Ease of Integration into National Programs


6.2.1 Specific Traditions
6.2.2 Cross-cultural
6.3.1 Contradicting the Traditional System
6.3.2 Agreeing with Traditional Values




List of Acronyms

Abbildung in dieer Leseprobe nicht enthalten


This thesis explores the dilemma and possibilities of building durable peace in post war northern region of the Republic of Uganda. It focuses on rediscovering traditional practises as a possible solution to the dilemma. Its conclusion is therefore derived from research on the possibility of incorporating traditional practises of peacebuilding into the existing national peacebuilding framework of Uganda. It did this against a backdrop of a two decade armed conflict in that region of the country.

Northern Uganda, from which I come, has been embroiled in a bitter civil war since 1986. The war is being fought between the northern Uganda based Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels and the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) of the Uganda Government. Hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost and millions of people have been displaced since hostilities began. In addition to the mass casualties, properties have been lost and families have been divided. The war has practically geographically and socially divided the country in two: the poverty stricken northerners and their more economically comfortable southern counterparts. This divide is generating conflictual sentiments, which if not well monitored and addressed, may result into an inter-regional war in the near future.

Many attempts have been made to address the root causes of the Ugandan conflict to no avail. However, there has been a glimmer of hope since 2006 when the government and the rebels, albeit shakily and suspiciously, engaged in a series of peace talks. This has resulted in the signing of a Cessation of Hostility Agreement between the two conflict parties which has momentarily stopped the hostilities, but there are signs that this might not hold for long.

In the aftermath of the peace talks, Ugandan politicians have shifted their focus to peacebuilding as part of post war development. In 2008, the government unveiled a reconstruction plan called the Peace, Recovery and Development Plan (PRDP) of Northern Uganda, but it was suspended in January 2009 because of poor governmental planning. This is not an isolated case of a failed effort to bring peace to northern Uganda. Many previous peacebuilding and development plans were closed down without success. Numerous reasons have been forwarded for these accumulated failures such as corruption, lack of political will to support peacebuilding and the poor designs of interventions.

Perhaps this leaves only one option: the advancement of traditional practises of peacebuilding that draw life from traditionally used peacebuilding mechanisms that were in existence before the emergence of the present conflict. By re-introducing these mechanisms, it is hoped that they might be incorporated in future governmental peacebuilding interventions. It is also hoped that the inclusion of traditional practises would provide an approach which would find a ready cultural acceptance among the beneficiaries and succeed in building durable peace. The acceptance, in return, would make it easy for the practical incorporation of traditional peacebuilding practises into the existing national peacebuilding framework which is currently dominated by modern peacebuilding practises. This would therefore lead to the development of a hybrid peacebuilding system comprising both traditional and modern peacebuilding mechanisms and aiming at a durable peace in northern Uganda.

Chapter One: A Psychoanalytical Approach

1.1 The Making of an Author

As an author I was put into a dilemma of taking into account on the one hand the Marxist literary theorists who believe that the author’s intent is by all means a code for particular sets of ideologies in the author’s era and therefore authorial intentionality is paramount in understanding a particular work of a particular author and on the other hand philosophers who believe that there is a historical propagation that liberates the reader from domination by the author. To the latter intent amounts to naught while understanding a work. Roland Barthe, who forwarded “the death of the author” theory, is one such thinker (Graham, 2003). This position is supported by the deconstruction movement which was aimed at rendering the author irrelevant and unknowable.

However, I have come to agree with the psychoanalytic critics who, while agreeing with the Marxist literary theorists, believed that the author’s biography and sub consciousness state are seen as part of the text. It is with that belief that I set to write about myself as an author to form a prelude to this thesis.

1.1.1 The Early Years and Fears

There are two types of fears, the fear of paper tigers and the fear for life. During my early years in this life I seldom confronted the first type of fear but grew up with the second. I spent my first four years hanging from my mother’s back, often strapped by her but in some occasions I just clung. It was not only because of the mother’s love for the child, but more the mother’s instinct to protect from harm, for there was a lot of harm around us at that time.

I was born to two ex-police personnel. Both of them had left the services before I was born. My father left because he was forced to, reason being that he was half Ugandan and not entitled to full working privileges and therefore he could not earn much to keep the family going through the month. The real issue was my Tanzanian grandfather who married my Ugandan grandmother and produced my father. As for my mother, she left the forces because she needed to be near my father in order to raise the four boys they had produced prior to my birth. My family’s background therefore made us a minority within a minority of Uganda and this plunged me in a search for my identity. This search would shape my future life, resulting in my dissatisfaction with my original profession of law and lead me into Master of Arts in Peace Studies.

What one should also know is that I was born into the family of Muslims. For 12 generations the male lineage society that I come from practiced Islam way back to the advent of the Arab and Persian traders in East Africa. My ancestors were the product of African–Persian intermarriages and therefore Islam became our family culture because it ceased to be only a religion but our way of life. The challenges in later years and generations were the late introduction of Christianity in African communities and the inter- marriages that ensued after. Apart from being a product of cultural-racial intermarriage I became a product of religious intermarriage too. I was born to a Muslim father and a Catholic mother. I have lived in the silent conflict of these two religions for all of the three decades of my life. Again, this experience was to signal to me and lead me to my present vocation as a peace and conflict transformation researcher.

It is not surprising that the real threat to my life came from religious conflict and it was the reason why I spent my first four years on my mother’s back. The source of the problem was that I was born during the reign of the brutal Ugandan dictator Field Marshal Al Hajji General Idd Amin Dada who was the president of Uganda from 1971 to 1979 after which was predominantly Christians who did not hide their detest for our Muslim family. Be as it was, my family never enjoyed any privilege from the Amin government. We were marginalized but feared. Many families who lost relatives to Amin’s brutality looked at us as accomplices. Coincidentally, we lived within the Lango tribal community where the last president, Dr. Apollo Milton Obote whom Amin ousted and still feared, belonged and thus the Lango community became the target of Amin’s wrath – killing mostly affluent people hailing from the tribe. We were caught in Amin’s blood thirty games and the locals named us Anyanyas meaning blood–thirsty warriors from southern Sudan where Amin was rumoured to have originated from. When Amin was ousted and exiled in 1979, a year after I was born, our family was stripped of any protection. Not that we were safer in the years before. Undoubtedly many neighbours would have loved to squeeze life out of my little body out of anger even at the risk of having Amin’s men burn down the whole village. Had it not been for my mother’s insistence to have me strapped on her back for purposes of my protection and preventing me from wondering into harms way.

When Amin was finally overthrown the village descended upon our home, tore down the houses, smashed the truck and burnt my father’s grocery store. They claimed that they could not hurt the children because we were half them but that they wanted our foreigne r father who had fortunately been tipped off about the impending attack and left for Kenya. Ironically it was the Tanzanian forces that helped liberate Uganda from Amin’s brutal rule and stripped us of our protection who came to our rescue after learning of our Tanzanian connections. We were moved to a protected area and the transgressing villagers were jailed. However the memories never left us because we remained the Anyanya kids in school, the brutal Muslims on play grounds and the ungrateful foreigners in later life as we grappled with socialization and employment challenges. When my father came back from exile he was arrested on trumped up charges of treason and kept in a maximum security prison for two years. We hated the system and I craved to become a lawyer, naively hoping that such an occupation would be the answer to all the injustices in our lives. It was not to be.

1.1.2 Coming of Age

I joined law school on a state scholarship in 1997 and later I completed a post graduate course in human rights law—still chasing the mirage called justice—and I qualified as a High Court Advocate of Uganda. I joined the government owned Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) as a Human Rights Officer before venturing into international humanitarian organizations. I later resigned to private legal practice after realizing that changing the world is not a one man’s affair.

However, my search for what to do to improve the chances of those caught in conflict was going on. The experience of working with UHRC and the various international agencies in my conflict prone region and home of northern Uganda kept pushing me towards doing something beyond advocacy, it kept on asking me to remember the millions living in Internally Displaced Peoples (IDPs) Camps; the children dying from hunger; the young women selling sex for the equivalent of 1 Euro in order to get food to eat while risking contracting the deadly Human Immune Virus (HIV) and the thousands dying from preventable diseases like diarrhoea, dysentery, cholera and malaria. I lived with them and cried with them and buried their dead with them and hoped with them. As a result of this experience, I did something else: I chose to study a course on how best to help individuals from my war-torn area and others like them in order to help myself overcome my past which was not different from the lives they were living in the present. I chose to participate in a Master of Arts in Peace Studies and hence write this thesis.

As it can be clearly seen, my biography influenced what I have become. Even as I now ponder over the research theme of my thesis, which is Peace Building, I know very well that the choice of this theme reflects who I am and what I stand for. I also know that whatever I will write will come from my heart and soul for I lived and walked it, accepting my fate in the process and hoping for better days that I am yet to see and that many people I knew never saw. However, I am also aware of my responsibility as a scholar and I am determined to ensure that my study remains based on a critical examination of given facts and events. In short, this study is intended to be a scientific work relevant for the policy making circles and agencies in my own region/country and abroad.

In the process of writing this I have weaved through my childhood and professional life in order to lay bare who I am. By and large, I was born in a conflict, raised in a conflict, employed in a conflict, educated in conflict studies and now writing about conflict. I have not known peace except that it is the opposite of conflict, which may or may not be true, as I will be left to discover in the chapters which proceed.

1.2 Research Interest

My research interest lies in evaluating traditional peacebuilding practises against the modern peacebuilding processes in northern Uganda. This is because, as a victim of twenty years of violent civil war in northern Uganda (1986-2006), I look to the day when durable peace will be achieved in Uganda.

1.3 Defining Key Words

1.3.1 Peace

Peace by its nature can be defined in different ways. Each society defines it in its own way. Even within a society, each individual may have a specific way of defining it. However, it has been agreed that there is some kind of philosophia perennis, a fundamental pattern across cultures of the world (Dietrich, 2006). However, as Dietrich (ibid) considers that cross-cultural pattern as being its energetic nature, my experience taught me that it is something more. It is the ability for each individual within a society to live a life where he or she partakes from and give back to nature while being able to meet his or basic worldly needs.

The basic needs being food, safety and shelter because life cannot be without them. Therefore, to people I am about to write about who are like myself, peace is being able to enjoy nature without threats of being killed by another human being or worries over what to eat the next day. Hence, any other way of understanding peace would not make sense unless one is free from physical threats and hunger.

1.3.2 Peacebuilding

Generally, peacebuilding is defined in many ways depending on the scope and level of intervention. At international and national levels, it may mean structural transformation in the form of institutional reforms geared towards sustainable peace (Boutros-Ghali, 1992). Within the context of this paper, however, it refers to efforts aimed at transforming relationships within post conflict communities in order to facilitate the establishment of sustainable peace and to prevent the recurrence of violence by addressing underlying causes and effects of conflict.

In this context it is important to stress that it is often considered that traditional and communally generated peacebuilding initiatives are paramount in the transformation of relationships. For that reason, it should always be intended to feed into and be an integral part of the structural part of the institutional reforms at higher levels. It is also my position that traditional and communally initiated peacebuilding initiatives are important for informing national peacebuilding policies and should be identified and included in all national post war development frameworks.

1.3.3 Traditional Peacebuilding Practises

In this research, traditional peacebuilding practises are those communally grown conflict resolution approaches. They are directed towards building durable and peaceful relationships within communities and among individuals. They are geared towards restorative justice where reconciliation and forgiveness are considered as paramount for peaceful co-existence. The practises vary from community to community but they are generally respected and are influenced by the values of those communities.

They are considered to have been developed from past community initiatives that have evolved into customs and consequently into traditional practises. To sum it up, traditional practises of peacebuilding are those cultural, traditional and customary values aimed at peaceful existence within communities making up tribes and with those they interact.

1.3.4 Modern Peacebuilding Practises

In the context of this research, modern peacebuilding practises are the currently existing non-traditional practises of peacebuilding in Uganda. They are peacebuilding practises that are alien to the traditions of the beneficiaries. They are peacebuilding methods initiated and designed without the input of communities in which peace is intended to be built.

1.3.5 System(s)

In this research, ‘system’, and its plural ‘systems’, is a categorisation by nature of the various peacebuilding practises. There are two categories of systems used in this discourse. The first is ‘modern peacebuilding system’, which is used to describe the compilation of all modern peacebuilding practises. The second is ‘traditional peacebuilding system’ which describes all the traditional practises mentioned in this work.

1.4 Motivation and Interest

For twenty two years people in the conflict-torn northern Uganda where I come from have always hoped that the war, which began in 1986 when the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels took up arms against the Government of Uganda (GoU) and killed and displaced millions of people, would end and the moment of peacebuilding would come (Invisible Children, 2009). For two decades northern Ugandans have strived for a moment when they would overhaul the balance that exists between making peace, in terms of ending wars, and building peace in the premises of the creation of durable solutions to armed conflicts.

Finally the armed conflict ended with the signing of the Cessation of Hostility Agreement (CHA) between the LRA and the GoU in August 2006, or at least there are no more shots being fired, and now they are left with the equally enormous challenge of fighting the development war (United Nations, 2006). This is so because development entails many long-term strategies that are usually rooted in both short- and long-term interventions such as peace building, economic empowerment and the enhancement of access to justice. Notably, peacebuilding as part of a development plan is an effective conflict prevention strategy that requires a comprehensive approach and encompasses both short- and long-term political, diplomatic and economic considerations (Lederach, 1997).

Therefore, as a conflict survivor from northern Uganda and a peace researcher, I am interested in how government and donors design and implement peacebuilding interventions in relation to what the communities might embrace. In this sense, I am interested in what the communities might consider their own workable peacebuilding system and whether they can be fed into future government policies.

1.5 Initial Problem

My first observation is that often post war governments design top-down post war development policies that do not address the question of peacebuilding in its entirety but mainly focuses on peacemaking. These policies, which are not aimed at durable peace, are usually designed to provide short-term political solutions such as peacemaking concessions, appeasement pacts and the strengthening of governmental institutions such as the judiciary, the army and the police to create a peace enforcement atmosphere.

This approach, in my view, is not healthy for achieving a sustainable peace because peacebuilding should be the logical end of peacemaking and should be incorporated in all post war developmental effort. Boutros-Ghali in Agenda for Peace stressed that peacemaking, to be truly successful, must come to include comprehensive efforts to identify and support structures which will tend to consolidate peace and advance a sense of confidence and well-being among people in the form of peacebuilding (Boutros-Ghali, 1992).

In the case of Northern Uganda, the latest of such post war development policy is the Peace, Recovery and Development Plan of Northern Uganda (PRDP) which was launched on October 15, 2008 and now effectively suspended since March 31, 2009 to give government time to re-think the whole plan (Mugerwa 2009). The suspension of the PRDP might be a result of many reasons but it clearly points to weaknesses in the plan itself. Earlier programs by the government of Uganda, such as the Northern Uganda Reconstruction Programme (NURP) I and II, Northern Uganda Social Adjustment Fund (NUSAF) I and II and Northern Uganda Rehabilitation Programme (NUREP), have all failed, or are failing, to build durable peace and thus incapable of avoiding the recurrence of conflicts. The question is why are government peacebuilding programs failing to have positive effects in post war peace building? Could it be that post war government policies, including the suspended PRDP, are peacemaking frameworks which focus on efforts to diminish violence rather than peacebuilding? Are these policies affected by their top-down approaches that do not incorporate traditional and communal initiated peacebuilding practises as integrative parts of their undertakings?

1.6 Research Problem

The armed conflicts in Uganda, like in many militarised countries in Africa, are recurrent. This recurrence is in spite of the many governmental, non-governmental and international efforts directed towards peacebuilding during the last four decades since armed conflicts first erupted in the country in 1966 (Oloka-Onyango, 1993). The armed conflict which has just ended with the signing of the CHA between the GoU and the LRA in opposite sides in northern Uganda in 2006 has been going on since 1986. Meanwhile, many failed attempts have been made by GoU and international community to build durable peace during the duration of the conflict. The last attempt at peacebuilding was the now suspended GoU’s PRDP which was rolled out in August 2008 (Mugerwa, 2009). The PRDP was a top-bottom creation of the GoU with little consideration of the traditional and communal peacebuilding approaches of the beneficiaries.

1.7 Research Question

What are the available traditional peacebuilding practises existing within Northern Uganda tribal communities such as the Lango that have not been previously included in the peacebuilding efforts of the region? Can they, with modification, be successfully replicated in national policies to building durable peace in Uganda where previous peacebuilding practises have failed?

1.8 Specific questions

Some of the more specific sub questions would be: What, and how effective, are the available Lango community peacebuilding mechanisms in working towards sustainable peace? Are Lango community peacebuilding initiatives representative of northern Uganda? What, and how relevant, are the modern imposed peacebuilding mechanisms in achieving durable peace in northern Uganda? Are there meeting points for traditional practises of peacebuilding on one part and modern peacebuilding approaches on the other? What are the similarities and differences between traditional peacebuilding practises and modern peacebuilding approaches? Why have previous peacebuilding efforts failed in bringing durable peace to the region? What are the challenges involved in promoting bottom-up traditional peacebuilding practises over top-down modern peacebuilding approaches?

1.9 Research Methodology

1.9.1 Research Process and Methods

This research will approach the problem of identifying the hitherto ignored traditional and community initiated peacebuilding mechanisms and its potential incorporation in national peacebuilding policies from various levels: district, village, household and the expected individual beneficiaries. It will investigate the problem by starting with the current situation calling for sustainable peace and then identifying viable traditional and community initiated peacebuilding mechanisms that have not been incorporated in the official governmental peacebuilding framework. It will then identify the various existing peacebuilding efforts and their sources, tracing the relationship between community participation and peacebuilding and its relevance on sustainable peace.

It will look at the possibility of blending locally initiated or traditional mechanisms with the externally imposed approaches to create a hybrid of approaches that are aimed and capable of promoting sustainable peace. Moreover, it will use three levels of comparative analysis, the first level will be of three counties (smaller units of a district) to isolate certain variables such as culture, sentiments and experiences and their implications on perception. The second level will be on selected peacebuilding approaches among the various tribes in the northern region and the last will be among selected regions in the country.

The study of suitability of traditional and community initiated peacebuilding mechanisms to building sustainable peace as opposed to externally imposed peacebuilding mechanisms will be analysed against a host of legal, economic, political and socio-cultural data and wider scale social and legal situations which are directly and indirectly pertinent.

As a researcher, therefore, I will greatly depend on my long and extensive experience in this area of research both as an indigenous member of the Lango community and as a peace worker. I will look and draw from my documented experiences, outcomes of past workshops and participatory rural appraisals (PRA) and findings of my unanalysed and unpublished early researches. It therefore follows that this research will retrospectively employ both structured and unstructured interviews, participant observation and focus group discussions I had carried before I embarked on the present research journey, but these were essentially in relation to the same theme , though for different purposes (Ahuja, 2001; Craig and Cook, 2007). In addition, however, I will also gather historical data, cultural data and political data from primary and secondary sources including books, articles, journals, local and national government reports, project reports of peacebuilding organisations, published interviews and newspaper clippings.

The sites to be considered while carrying out the research will be Lira Municipal, Otuke and Erute South Counties. These are all areas of my first level of comparative analysis. These are sites I had carried out researches, workshops and FGDs in. Therefore, instead of field research, the retrospective data from my life and past experiences as an indigenous member of this community and peace worker respectively in these areas will be reflected in this choice of areas too. No second and third levels areas will be considered in field research.

1.9.2 The Research Location

The research will be located in Lira district in the northern region of the republic of Uganda. The district has been a battle ground for the large part of the twenty years conflict. According to the official district website, it has a population of 757, 763. Its native inhabitants are the Langi who are people of the Lango tribe, who remain the main ethnic group in the district. The district has a total area of 7,251 square kilometres (Lira District, 2009). Lira is a host to many national and international governmental and non- governmental institutions. It is also the regional commercial centre for Northern Uganda. It has a regional high court and many government funded project offices. It is also one of the districts in Northern Uganda that has been most affected by the northern Uganda war.

1.9.3 Ethical Standards

Most of the research sources are either published data or official public data and these have been properly acknowledged in the form of citations . In other words, this study does maintain certain ethical standard in research and writing. One may add here that I have received consent and permission from interviewees and participants to use the data I had collected during my earlier experiences as a peace worker in any constructive manner.

1.9.4 Data Reduction and Analysis

In my design, initial secondary data analysis will be a continuous process while carrying out the research. I will categorise and record my data from secondary documents in such a way as to make it easy for me to understand the information collected. Therefore I will do on the spot initial secondary data analysis although I will not depend entirely on this when making a final ordering of data into constituent parts in order to obtain answers to my research question but rather on the formal data analysis done by rearranging the data collected. This is to guard against using incomplete data (Singleton and Straits, 1989). The secondary data collected will then be used to test retrospective field data collected during my experience as a peace worker to ensure its relevancy to the research.

1.9.5 Reporting

Lastly, reporting the findings will then ensue. Research is done for a purpose and in my case the purpose is to present it as an academic work in the form of a book.

1.10 Literature Review

Peacebuilding as a post war development concept is not new and therefore has a number of earlier writings related to it. It has always been explored from the presence of conflict perspective and, as such, peace is seen as the absence of armed conflict, at least in Uganda, and therefore the available literature reflect this attitude. However, in relation to effective community initiated peacebuilding, the available literature has gaps resulting from time lag and subject focus. The dearth of literature, therefore, pleads for a fresh and focused investigation into the theme.

1.10.1 Conflict versus Peace in Uganda

Some studies have focused on the causes of conflict and the subsequent lack of peace in Uganda (Allen, 2005). However, the focus, similar to this research, has been on the causes of lack of negative peace or absence of violence but not the process to attain durable and sustainable peace. The arguments of the researchers have been shaped by logic that the wars must end before peace can be built (Walligo, 2005). For many years the discourse on peace has been continuously derailed by the discussions on the causes of conflict. It has gone on without addressing the fundamental question of searching for effective mechanisms to build durable peace. My position is that focus should be on searching for effective peacebuilding practises.

Presently, the literature on peacebuilding in Uganda is mainly focused on the discussion what should be prioritised between peace and justice. This done as the country grapples with the reality of ending the war and punishing the perpetrators in the light of International Criminal Court’s intervention (ICC). This was an intervention to indict and prosecute rebels fighting the government of Uganda (Refugee Law Project, 2006). The general view is that justice should be pursued after peace has been achieved (International Bar Association, 2007). This debate alone has diminished the urgency to start the always long and comprehensive process of peacebuilding.

1.10.2 Peacebuilding

Conventionally, many studies have been made in the areas of top-down peacebuilding where there is always the presence of an “expert” whose work is to make a diagnosis, a prognosis and then treat the peaceless societies. Renowned peace researchers like Johan Galtung (1999) concentrated on the use of external knowledge to transform conflict and build peace in communities. John Paul Lederach (1995) on the other hand understood the need for the use of locally grown capacity in building effective peace.

Lederach in his elicitive methods of conflict resolution or, as he calls it, conflict transformation, however, is still based on the assumption that some “outsider” should “facilitate” peacebuilding. Lederach (2004) later echoed the same view when he stated that transcending violence is forged by the capacity to generate, mobilize, and build the moral imagination and that we must explore the creative process itself, exploring imaginations and discovery (Lederach, 2004).

A section of Ugandan writers such as Samuel T. Tindifa (2001) and Betty Bigombe (1993) have been influenced by Lederach and Galtung and therefore they propose a hybrid system based on concepts forwarded by these two authors . Tindifa and Bigombe’s arguments are primarily formulated as a reaction to the armed conflict in Uganda, focusing on negative peace with no mention at all of positive peace. However, emerging Ugandan writers such as James Ojera-Latigo (2008) and Moses C. Okello (2007) hinted on the need to give the discourse on peacebuilding a traditional perspective. Even so, none of the writers focused on the need to integrate the traditional practises into the existing modern peacebuilding system.

Suggestions for peacebuilding have come from different quarters of Ugandan writers. Joseph Oloka-Onyango Oloka-Onyango (1993) looks at it from a rule of law perspective. He states that a government that has a working rule of law system is accepted by the community and that such acceptance negates a need for violent expression of one’s self hence peace. Again, this reasoning reflects the need to end armed conflict. John Mary Walligo (2004) relates Onyango’s rule of law to the development of the state and points out that peacebuilding is directly proportional to state building. He argues that weak state cannot have peace and therefore Uganda as a state should aspire to be stronger in order to build sustainable peace.

There is clearly an exigency of literature on community owned peacebuilding initiatives that are designed and engineered by the communities to build peace from within. Most writings reviewed above suggest external solutions for internal problems based on the abstract assumption that peace can be transplanted. Even researches that have focused on the interest of the beneficiaries do not take into account the need to allow the beneficiaries to make, own and run the process.

Meanwhile, other writers out of Uganda have attempted to search for their own paths in regards to post war peacebuilding. Simon Fisher and Lada Zamina (2008) partly captured my concern in their attempt to explain the challenges of incorporating peacebuilding in post war development. They forward a view that international peace practioneers and other global civil society players who have peace as part of their remit, remain weak and implicitly focused on a relatively narrow approach to peace without full recognition of the interconnectedness and flux of the system. As a result, the services they offer tend to be inadequate, in the sense that they merely serve to reinforce the circumstances which give rise to violence and warfare in the first place. Yet as the field itself postulates, peace is not simply about the absence of visible violence, but requires addressing underlying drivers and dynamics. To Fisher and Zamina, peace builders are failing to make the political waves necessary to convince others of the possibility of peace, and perhaps even themselves, while globalized corporate power exerts ever more undemocratic control over the essential elements of peace. To them peacebuilding benefits the technical staff at the expense of the beneficiaries and is more focused on project-bound locations and time-scales than goals.

They suggest an agenda for transformative peacebuilding, emphasizing working from grassroots to high politics, giving accountability to the beneficiaries not funders and government, tackling global socio-economic and justice issues, empowerment of communities, improving networks among different stakeholders, delivering change through the outcome of projects and action learning.

Duane K. Friesen and Glen H. Stassen (1998) favour moral principles to political strategies in peacemaking and peacebuilding. They however emphasise peacemaking and suggest 10 practices of making peace divided into sub-groups of cooperative forces, justice and peacemaking initiatives. In their view, while building peace there is need to recognize emerging cooperative forces in the international system and work with them. They stress the importance of establishing grassroots peacemaking groups and voluntary associations.

1.10.3 Post War Development

GoU policies have reflected the absence of violence for peace approach in post war development. In its working paper Post-conflict Reconstruction: The Case for Northern Uganda, it considers the lack of conflict as a logical step towards peace and not peace as a potential remedy to conflicts (GoU, 2003). The argument is that post war development, which includes peacebuilding, is the inevitable outcome of all conflicts. It is a period between a war and normalcy in life, and optimistically it signifies the final end to the war.

Relating to post war development and peacebuilding, Terrill G. Ayes et al. (eds.) (1983) argue that peace is more than just an end to war. They emphasise the equality of mankind in any post war development effort. Through that approach, they contend peacebuilding ensues and post war development is realized. This humanistic approach to peacebuilding and post conflict development was observed by the Uganda Human Rights Commission as the most relevant for the realization of sustainable development in the post conflict northern Uganda (UHRC, 2005).

W.E.B Du Bois (1999)1 discusses the effort of the United States of America’s government in reconstructing Post Civil War America. In this work Du Bois questions the effort of the government in designing the post war development strategy. He discusses the challenges that faced the Freedmen’s Bureau which was put in place to give humanitarian and development aid to freed slaves. Among his criticism is the corruption infested approach and the half-heartedness of the government to bring real post war development change. In his view, the intention of the US government was to pacify the country by avoiding further violence other than building peace. In fact, the outcome of such an intervention was to be felt years later when violent crime and low self-esteem ate into the souls of the Negroes something that would have been different if community owned peacebuilding had been incorporated into the development effort. However, around that time, and indeed around the time Du Bois wrote this, the peace movement had not started but still this work is a good example of how post-war development programmes can go awry.

UNICEF (1998) attempted to avoid the American post war mistakes. It gives the essential components of mainstreaming peace in post war development. It forwards steps such as conflict analysis, interfacing conflicting analysis with situation analysis, and sticking to the programming cycle. It emphasizes the importance of utilizing a multivariate and a multi-sector checklist for tracking peacebuilding and social inclusiveness. It stresses the need to plan, implement, monitor and evaluate the programme /project intervention in a conflict sensitive manner. According to this approach, the interventions to be designed should heal rather than hurt the people. But again, UNICEF emphasises the top-down approach which this research tries to avoid.

Meanwhile, International Crisis Group found that preparing the ground for sustainable peace and reconciliation in northern Uganda is a prerequisite for any post war development effort including peacebuilding. The report suggests that a coordinated reconciliation strategy through direct support for initiatives-women and community is important for a sustainable post war development (International Crisis Group, 2005).

Chapter Two: History of Armed Conflict in Uganda and Earlier

Attempts at Peacebuilding

Building durable peace in northern Uganda requires an understanding of the history of conflict in Uganda. In this chapter, I will trace the history of armed conflict in Uganda from its pre-colonial history through the colonial period and to post colonial times. The chapter also discusses the attempts made at ending conflicts and building durable peace and explains as to why these efforts failed.

2.1 History of Armed Conflict in Uganda

For the purpose of clarity, this research adopts one of the most internationally accepted definitions of armed conflict. It uses Wallensteen and Sollenberg’s (2001: 629) definition which defines armed conflict as:

a contested incompatibility which concerns government and/or territory where the use of armed force between two parties, of which at least one is the government of a state, results in at least 25 battle-related deaths.

This is because it is important to distinguish between the numerous armed disturbances that characterise the daily life in Uganda from armed conflict as defined by Wallensteen and Sollenberg (Ibid).

In Uganda, several armed conflicts have exploded since the advent of the British in the East African region. However, even before colonialism, armed conflict existed between and among warring tribes with the difference being that these conflicts were less severe. This was because they used rudimentary weapons such as spears, machetes, bows and arrows which were less fatal (PRIO, 2002). Below, I will outline the chronological development of armed conflict in northern Uganda and how it has impacted on the process of peacebuilding.

2.1.1 Pre-Colonial Times

In pre-colonial times Uganda was divided into kingdoms and chieftainship. In her book, Uganda’s Political Economy : A Synthesis of Major Thoughts, Joy Moncrieffe (2004a) traces this history:

Before the British renamed and reconfigured the territory, what is now Uganda was then an array of kingdoms (Buganda, Bunyoro, Ankole and Toro) and communities located in the Lango, Acholi, Madi, West Nile, Bukedi, Bugisi, Busoga, Teso, Karamoja, Sebei and Kigezi regions. It was a heterogeneous area, with a variety of customary practices, social and political structures. Across the northern region, population was scarce and the environment unduly harsh; people engaged either in herding or shifting agriculture. Pastoral groups, such as the Karamojong, had little opportunity to settle in social units and family relations took precedence over the clan (Moncrieffe, 2004a:10).

Each kingdom and chieftainship, which was in any case patriarchal, had its own way of dealing with conflict and peace. In the North and the East, among the Langi people of Lango and the Acholi people of Acholi for example, there were formations of larger social units called clans within the communities. These clans had their own council of elders. Elders were elected to serve on the clan councils and were responsible for selecting clan leaders who, in turn, chaired the councils (Moncrieffe, 2004b).

Clan leaders were responsible to the council, and could not make war or peace without consensus. This structure ensured check and balance in the clan leadership and at the same time prevented unnecessary conflicts. Similarly, elders had joint responsibility for resolving disputes (Kanyeihamba, 2002). The elders ensured that violence was eradicated and conflicts were resolved peacefully.

In fact, “Inter-clan violence was common and deadly where clans fought over cattle, land, women and goods. It was difficult to maintain peace in these regions” (Moncrieffe, 2004a:11). Even before 1894, when Uganda became a British Protectorate, the impending threats from other tribal communities and the more stratified and organized southern kingdoms threatened the northern and eastern tribes. These tribes consisted mainly of the Lango, Madi, Lugbara, Karamajong and the Acholi. Others tribes included the Iteso, Sebei, Alur, Kakwa, Jonamu, Japadhola, Gwere, Samia, Bagishu Badama, Banyuli, and Bagwere (Moncrieffe, 2004a; Kasozi, 1999). These tribes reorganized by creating more centralized systems in order to prepare for defense and war. As a result of reorganization, clan leaders became responsible for the election, from within their own councils, of the paramount tribal chiefs who mobilized and presided over numerous clans in times of disputes and war (Ojera-Latigo, 2008). Hence, the predominantly northern and eastern societies developed mainly as a result of conflict and remained organized as conflict defensive units until today. Similarly, some weaker southern tribes such as the Bamba and the Bakongo also conducted their own restructuring for similar reasons. Overall, this reorganization which was necessitated by war had an everlasting and undesired impact on the peaceful stability within and among these tribes.

Despite the tribal focused warfare, as mentioned earlier, traditional peacemaking and peacebuilding practices existed in these communities. For example, the Lango and Acholi who have been and remain neighbours had developed similar communal system of resolution of conflicts which was executed through the council of elders (Kanyeihamba, 2001). James Ojera-Latigo (2007), in respect of Acholi, wrote:

In pre-colonial times, and before the people of Acholiland were forcibly split up and moved from their homesteads, practically all conflicts in Acholiland were settled amicably through a well developed mechanism for the prompt resolution of conflicts as soon as they arose. Prior to the formation of the state of Uganda which replaced the British colonial administration, the Acholi people maintained a traditional government that was rooted firmly in their religious beliefs, norms and customs, which demanded peace and stability in Acholiland at all times, based on their philosophy of life. This structure was maintained by the real anointed chiefs of the Acholi people, known as the rwodi moo. (Ojera-Latigo, 2008: 102).

It therefore follows that traditional and community initiated conflict resolution mechanisms in northern Uganda had existed even before the advent of colonization in Uganda. What is debatable, a subject which will be covered in the following chapters, was the effectiveness and fairness of these rather reactive mechanisms in relation to building durable peace.

Meanwhile, in the greater part of the south, where there were better environmental conditions and higher levels of development, feudal kingdoms developed. This occurred among the Baganda of Buganda, Banyankole of Ankole, Batoro of Toro, Banyoro of Bunyoro and the Basoga of Busoga. Among these peoples, violence was employed to consolidate power. The Ankole, for example, became a class-based society in which the Bahima ruling class controlled with the use of violence and owned cattle as a sign of authority (Rodney, 1978; Moncrieffe, 2007). The same could be said of other tribes such as the Bunyoro and Buganda.

Compared with Ankole and Bunyoro, the Buganda monarchy exhibited greater control over the dispensation of force and as such controlled the outbreak of armed conflicts. However, in Ankole and Bunyoro where junior leaders had the power to question the kings’ actions many secessionist armed conflicts were experienced. In Buganda the Kabakas, or kings, used their infallible and consolidated authority to eliminate dissenters though execution.

In general terms, by the eve of colonialism in the late 19th century, all of the larger and smaller kingdoms regularly used war and violent raids to expand their territories and influence (Shillington, 2005). Consequently, many violent armed conflicts occurred between the kingdoms. Notable were those conflicts between Bunyoro and Buganda. However, even with inter-ethnic wars aside, there were intra-ethnic conflicts resulting from religions and the division of resources. For example, in 1885 Kabaka Mwanga of Buganda killed many of his subjects for practicing Christianity (Otiso, 2006). These divisions were later to be successfully exploited by the British colonialists to entrench their own hegemony and violence.

2.1.2 Colonial Times

The British first entered Uganda in1875 through the explorer Henry Morton Stanley (Stanley, 1875). At that time, Uganda was divided into kingdoms and mostly based on hereditary monarchy. Buganda was the largest and politically most organized of all despite the fact that it faced immense threats from the northern and south western kingdoms. Thus Buganda attracted the British. Shortly after arrival of Henry Morton Stanley, the first Anglican missionaries came to Uganda in 1877.They were followed by the Roman Catholic missionaries in 1879. Both groups had been preceded by the Arab Muslims who had introduced guns and new forms of war fares. Nevertheless, in the wake of Christian missionaries came trade and in 1888 the British government gave a green light to the Imperial British East Africa Company (IBEACO) to take control of Uganda. Gradually the company took control of Uganda and the local chiefs. IBEACO used coercion and bribery to reduce chiefs to puppet rulers (Moncrieffe, 2004a, Kanyinga, 2000).

While the colonialists patronized the south, it regarded the north with suspicion. During that time, the north was described as “a disturbed, hostile territory, in which there were some tribes powerful enough to offer stiff and prolonged resistance” to British occupation (Barber 1968, chapters 10–11). Therefore, out of security concerns the British decided to take control of the north towards the end of the century in order to secure the south and west of the country which had been effectively occupied and where they hoped to install an administration. Until 1921, therefore, the north was under British military occupation by an army unit called the Northern Garrison-an assumption of power and authority over the area ‘in which the tribes had no say’ (Barber 1968: 121). Thus, the British set a trend of forceful occupation and militarism which was to remain a legacy even to this day.

Meanwhile, the major powers in Europe resolved to partition Africa among themselves. In 1890 Britain and Germany signed a treaty stating that Uganda fell in the British area of control. Subsequently, the political agenda was rolled out and in 1890, the British signed an agreement with Buganda. This agreement made Uganda a British colony and at the same time it protected Buganda, giving it a special status among all other kingdoms. This agreement was followed by the 1894 declaration of a British protectorate over the entire colony (Lambert, 2007). In due course, Britain set up an indirect government which privileged the Buganda, and enraged the northern, eastern and western tribes. However, despite indirect rule, the traditional chiefs were kept as puppets (Lambert, ibid).

British favouritism for some groups was more than obvious. While the Buganda people were being pampered, many northerners were forcefully conscripted into the Ugandan army. The army therefore was filled with predominately northern conscripts and was seen as a position for uneducated people. (Marblestone, 2005).This practice would later put northern Uganda amidst conflicts which would eventually spill over into the present.

According to Ojera-Latigo (2008), the British also employed a divide and rule administrative system in their new colony of Uganda. Through this system, the colonialists appointed a parallel administrative structure of predominantly Baganda to run an alternative, but influential, local government alongside the retained traditional leaderships throughout Uganda. The colonial administrative structure reported directly to their colonial masters and thus created resentment within the traditional leadership systems. Often, this British supported administrative structure used violence and coercion to control the other parts of the country. This encouraged non-Baganda people to despise and be suspicious of the Baganda, a sentiment which remains even today. Worst, such feelings contributed to the 1966 armed conflict where the executive government under the directive of Milton Obote, a non Muganda Prime Minister, crushed an allegedly planned armed rebellion by Sir Edward Mutesa, the Buganda King who was also the first non executive President of Uganda (Mulumba, 2004).

While playing the politics of divide and rule, the British redrew the boundaries of kingdoms in 1900 and awarded Buganda, whom they saw as their ally, territories in other kingdoms. The most affected Kingdom was Bunyoro which lost a substantial amount of land to Buganda. This re-allocation of Bunyoro land to Buganda later became a hot political issue as the Banyoro sought for its “lost counties” (Espeland, 2006). The question of the “lost counties” would eventually lead to a showdown in the parliament between the central Government under Milton Obote and the federal government under Sir Edward Mutesa, resulting in the aforementioned 1966 crisis which occurred only four years after Uganda gained its independence.

During the Second World War, individuals from northern and the eastern part of Uganda were recruited to serve in the British Army. This marked the introduction of Uganda in general and the northern region in particular to organized armed conflict which would influence a legacy which continues until today. Yet it was not only human resources which was exploited by the British during this period, Uganda also exported wood for the war effort. While Britain was embroiled in its European troubles, the Ugandans were becoming restive as they started to look for their own freedom which resulted in nationalistic riots in 1945 and 1949 (Lambert, ibid). Many indigenous Ugandans joined colonial electoral politics to agitate for self rule and Uganda became independent from Britain on 9 October 1962. Following independence, Uganda’s first constitution was federalist, with its first president being Sir Edward Mutesa, King of Buganda and the first prime minister was Milton Obote.

Apart from the divisive and coercive judicial system which employed unequal laws to different classes and races, and the appeasement policies through political pacts used to patronize local leaders employed by the British, no conflict resolution and peacebuilding mechanism was introduced by the colonialists. Contrary, it is argued that the colonialists encouraged conflicts among the various tribes and kingdoms (Kanyeihamba, 2001). Even the hitherto existent traditional and community initiated conflict management systems were interrupted and discouraged, and in some cases disbanded through colonial legislations as being repugnant and unjust to natural justice (Walligo, 2005). This left a big gap unfilled and yet occupied by many unsatisfied indigenous Africans. The unsatisfied people later turned to violence to settle their differences and, as a result, the colonialists succeeded in destroying the civilization of colonized Africans.

Consequently, there were conflicts brewing up but no peaceful conflict resolution methods in place to counteract. The colonial administrators, through flawed judicial systems, settled most conflicts but often in a manner that left at least one of the parties dissatisfied. Arrest and imprisonment were the most popular way of handling various types of disagreements, even in cases of a civil nature such as debts and marital obligations. Conversely, this led to disrespect of the rule of law which has continuously pushed Uganda to armed conflict, especially in the years after independence.

Therefore, the colonial period- largely, consciously and systematically- set Uganda on a conflict prone course which has dogged the country until today.

2.1.3 Post Colonial Times

Uganda achieved independence from the British colonialists in 1962 under a federal arrangement where Milton Obote’s Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) party and Sir Edward Mutesa’s unconventional Kabaka Yekka (KY) party created a coalition to form the first post independent government. Under the arrangement, Mutesa became a non executive and thus powerless President, whereas Obote became an Executive Prime Minister with most of the power. This volatile and potentially dangerous arrangement was supported by the British regardless of the danger associated with it.

The manner by which this coalition was entered alone spelt doom because it cheated the Democratic Party (DP), another conventional Buganda based party, of any chance of having influence in parliament as most of its members crossed over to the more influential royal party of Edward Mutesa. This reduced DP to outsiders and parliamentary trouble makers. In fact, it was reportedly the DP members who propagated the unrest that later caused the collapse of the UPC-KY coalition and the subsequent Obote-Mutesa confrontation of I966 which became the first armed conflict in the country (Kanyeihamba, 2001).

It is true that many factors were responsible for the 1966 crisis but one would be right to say that the legacy of colonialism was the major cause. Many issues which were considered contentious around this time were directly or indirectly caused by the colonialists. First, the question of the lost counties, for example, caused a bitter rift in the young post independent parliament when UPC under Obote supported the return of these ‘lost counties” to Bunyoro, the rightful owners. This was done at the expense of Buganda who had been given these counties by colonialists as gifts or payment for helping the British defeat Bunyoro (Espeland, 2006). UPC’s support to Bunyoro has been considered by many politicians as being a tactical move by Milton Obote to forge a new alliance with the once powerful Bunyoro Kingdom so as to counter any move by Buganda. Secondly, there was the question of who was the most powerful between the president and the prime minister–a contention which could still be traced to colonialism. And thirdly, was the question of evicting the executive government of Milton Obote from Buganda by the Kabaka when Milton Obote supported positions against the interest of the Kabaka. The Kabaka wanted the parliament, government headquarters and the official residence of the prime minister to be shifted away from Buganda. This was because the prime minister supported policies which were considered anti-Buganda such as the return of Bunyoro land given to Buganda by the British.

In any event, the 1966 conflict came in the form of an attack by the national army, led by then Colonel Idi Amin Dada, on Lubiri, the Kabaka official residence. There was some resistance but the powerful national army defeated the royal guards of the Kabaka and in the process Kabaka Mutesa managed to escape and found his way to England where he later died from natural causes. This defeat led to the desecration of the Kingdom of Buganda and the subsequent dismantling of all the cultural institutions in the country (Ojera-Latigo, 2006). Following the conflict, a new constitution was passed, amidst complaints of coercion of parliament, in 1967 which declared Uganda a republic with Obote as the executive president (Kasozi, 1999).

The second armed conflict to plague Uganda after colonialism was the 25th January 1971 coup against Milton Obote by Idi Amin who was Obote’s Army Commander. This coup was supported by the majority of Baganda who clearly hated the Obote regime and it marked the beginning of the bloodiest dictatorship Uganda has ever suffered. During Idi Amin’s rule, half a million people were estimated to have been killed. The economy was also completely destroyed when Amin expelled the Asian investors and redistributed their businesses to his inexperienced henchmen (Mazrui, 1975; Kyemba, 1977).

Trouble also came from outside of Uganda’s borders. During Amin’s regime, many fatal and unsuccessful invasions were carried out by armed refugees operating from Tanzania. The most notable one was the Mutukula battle in which Amin’s forces killed hundreds of liberation invaders after a possible tip off (Museveni, 1997). However, by 1979 Idi Amin was overthrown by a joint liberation force made up of Ugandans- predominantly from northern Uganda and living in exile and the Tanzanian People’s Defence Forces (TPDF).

Suddenly, there was a leadership vacuum which was filled by an ad hoc military commission to avoid wrangles. Later, an election was carried out and UPC under Obote was declared the winner with DP once again crying foul. It was the claim of election rigging which was used by Yoweri Museveni from Ankole, who had contested the elections because he had come last to declare war against the elected government of Milton Obote in 1981.

The second Milton Obote presidency was not smooth and many small rebellions were waged and mercilessly crushed by government forces led by Brigadier Oyite Ojok who was from Obote’s tribe. However, the demise of Oyite Ojok in 1983 left Milton Obote vulnerable and the national army led by Acholi officers, under the leadership of Tito Okello Lutwa, once again overthrew the Milton Obote government. This consequently paved the way for Yoweri Museveni with the full support of his guerilla forces, National Resistance Army (NRA) to take advantage of the lax regime thus escalating attacks and gaining support from peasants.

The NRA was formed by Museveni in 1980 in anticipation of a guerilla warfare against the then GoU. It was a collection of many ragtag bandits and rebel groups within central Uganda. It officially presented itself as the armed wing of the Museveni’s political party, the Uganda People’s Movement (UPM) which later became the National Resistance Movement (NRM).

Earlier, an attempt at peace talks was made in December 1985 in Nairobi and dubbed “The Nairobi Peace Accord”. It was called by the President after Obote, Okello Lutwa to listen to the concerns of all the parties fighting in Uganda then. However, the Acholi regime under Okello Lutwa was too weak to make it work. NRA, which was a party to the peace accord, breached the terms and instead, with a few gun shots scared away the already weak Okello Lutwa government and walked into power in January 1986 (Ojera- Latigo, 2008).

2.1.4 The Entry of Museveni´s Government and the Outbreak of the 22 Year War

The NRA’s political wing, the National Resistance Movement (NRM), flaunted a left leaning Ten Point Programme document. NRM asserted in the document that it would guide Uganda to peace, development and prosperity, all bundled under the slogan of “fundamental change” (NRM, 1986). President Yoweri Museveni claimed to have led a peasant revolution and therefore appealed to the rural based Ugandans, who composed the national majority, to support his new regime. Nonetheless, the most effective propaganda of the NRA was the portrayal of northerners as killers who were not to be trusted by other Ugandans. Using the colonial propaganda of the myth that northerners are ‘war-like’, Yoweri Museveni displayed skulls of those who, he claimed, were killed by the northern soldiers of Milton Obote and Okello Lutwa regimes along major roads in Buganda where most of his wars were fought. In this respect, Ojera-Latigo wrote on the selfish use of the colonial myth of the “martial northerners”:

The post-colonial political elites took advantage of the arguments used to support these myths and the ethnic divisions based on them, and cynically started using them as a means of political manipulation for their own ends.

The result of this political game plan was the upsurge of the many armed conflicts the country has experienced (Ojera-Latigo, 2006: 86).

Museveni’s propaganda gained him support from the Baganda who had lost many people during his 1981-1986 guerrilla war against the government. Simultaneously, the propaganda also marginalised the northerners who felt victimised and left out of national politics. This and many other factors, such as unfair representation in government, poverty, low level of economic progress and the availability of arms laid a foundation for the northern war.

Other causes of the northern armed rebellion included the north-south divide and the allegedly planned and systematic looting of livestock belonging to northerners by NRA soldiers after ousting the Okello Lutwa regime in 1986 (RLP, 2008). It is possible that the feeling of military invincibility exhibited by northerners, which was falsely built by the colonialists who had branded them ‘war-like,’ in addition to the long time of northerners’ domination of national politics, contributed to armed resistance against the NRA. Indeed, presidents from northern Uganda had ruled from the 1962 independence until the overthrow of Okello Lutwa in 1986.

The Yoweri Museveni government experienced its share of conflict during his continuing rule. A total of 22 rebellions were fought against NRA, now called the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) and its political wing, the NRM, now called the National Resistance Movement-Organisation (NRM-O)2. The most intense conflicts have occurred in northern Uganda where fighting has continued over phases for the last 23 years (RLP, 2004). The first phase was started by the weakened former national army, the Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA), which was making their last stand against the NRA, and lasted from 1986 to 1988. The UNLA was then led by the exiled Okello Lutwa who had inherited leadership from Milton Obote who in turn inherited it from the liberation war against Idi Amin. An additional player in the first phase was the Uganda People’s Democratic Army (UPDA) led by the late Brigadier Odong Latek between 1987 and 1988. It fought for some time, but like the UNLA was talked out of the rebellion through a concessional peace talk that gave positions to their respective leaders within the government.

The second phase against Museveni lasted from 1987 to 1991 and was spearheaded by the Holy Spirit Mobile Forces (HSMF). HSMF was led by the late Alice Auma Lakwena who claimed to be a prophetess. Her defeat led to the rise of her father, Severino Okoya, who led another rebel group called the Holy Spirit Movement II (HSM II) against UPDF forces (Nyeko and Lucima, 2002).

The third and current phase saw the formation of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) of Joseph Kony which evolved from the Uganda Christian Democratic Army (UCDA), which itself was the remnants of Severino Okoya’s and Alice Lakwena’s forces. The LRA has been the fiercest and most destructive rebel group in the history of armed conflict in Uganda. It has displaced close to two million Ugandans and killed hundreds of thousands while leaving tens of thousands maimed (Invisible Children, 2009). Tens of thousands of children and adults have been abducted to work as soldiers. Families have been divided and property lost in LRA’s wake.

Attempts to militarily solve the continuous conflict have been futile. The most hopeful moment was when Kony appealed for peace talks and the GoU reluctantly accepted to pursue this option. In 2006, a Cessation of Hostility Agreement (CHA) was signed in Juba between the GoU and the LRA and witnessed by the Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS) (UN, 2006). There was hope that the peace talks would end in an agreement acceptable to both sides but that has not been the case. The LRA has continuously refused to sign the peace agreement citing unfair terms. At the time of research, the two parties had resumed combat but the war theater had been transferred deep inside the neighboring state of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where Kony and his LRA forces had withdrawn during the time of the peace talks. However, there was fear that the rebels would come back to abduct more people from northern Uganda to boost its dwindling number of soldiers.

Overall, there have been mixed results under Museveni’s rule. On a positive note, a new era opened in Ugandan history as the national army, although repressive, was effectively controlled by the regime of Yoweri Museveni, unlike his last two predecessors Milton Obote’s and Okello Lutwa’s regimes. Headway has been made towards economic progress, poverty has been tackled and literacy levels are being raised through ambitious government programmes echoing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The same optimism could not however be said of political and civil freedoms, because the government has tightened its grip on power and has been continuously suspected of rigging elections and manipulating the constitution and the parliament to remain in power (Human Rights Watch, 2006). Nonetheless, the greatest challenge to the NRM-O and the UPDF is the LRA and the northern conflict. The citizens and the international community are growing impatient and urging the government to make peace and stop the two decade conflict.

2.2 Attempts to End the Present Conflict and Build Durable Peace

It is undeniable that the conflict in northern Uganda has gone on long enough. Many approaches to end the conflict and build peace have been attempted but with little successful impact. The attempts have been political, legal, developmental, military and peaceful. What is interesting are the over-laps in these attempts as the GoU has tried to blend various approaches to end the war. For example, the Amnesty Act, which will be discussed later, was both a legal as well as a political attempt. Significant to this research, it has been argued that the Amnesty Act was drafted in the spirit of the Acholi traditional practise of confession and forgiveness (Ojera-Latigo, 2008). The various attempts at forging peace will be discussed below.


1 The Souls of Black Folks was first published in 1903 as a collection of essays by W.E.B Dubois..

2 Initially, it was National Resistance Movement(NRM) but when in 2000 political space was reopened and political parties allowed to operate, the NRM changed itself to a political party and called itself the National Resistance Movement-Organisation (NRM-O).

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Rediscovering Traditional Peacebuilding Practices in Post War Northern Uganda
University of Innsbruck
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Adams Rajab Makmot-Kibwanga (Author), 2009, Rediscovering Traditional Peacebuilding Practices in Post War Northern Uganda, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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