Uganda: Peace Committees in the Karamoja region
Since 1986, government forces and fighters of the insurgent Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) have been fighting in Uganda and in neighboring countries. Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed, possibly as many as 500,000 and 1,4 million of people have been uprooted. After a ceasefire and peace agreements, the Juba peace process failed in 2008.
In Uganda, District Peace Committees (DPCs) exist in the Karamoja and Acholi regions in the North. Their role is to prevent and resolve conflicts, assess the situation in the field and report or respond to an impending outbreak of violent conflict. They also follow up and recover stolen/raided livestock. The Chairperson is the Resident District Commissioner; the Co-chair is the Chairperson of the Local Council. Members are representatives from among others police, security forces, religious communities, CSOs, women and youth.
In Karamoja, there are additional Village Peace Committees (VPCs). Their main role is to confine the youth within the villages through warning, caution and curses in order to scare them away from cattle raiding activities. Traditionally, elders have a duty to counsel and admonish the youth. VPCs will also promote peace within their villages e.g. by preaching about peace during village meetings. They also act as an early warning system to report an impending raid.
Being selected a member of a VPC depends on several qualities: being a respectable person (respected by both adults and youth); a wise, visionary and focused elder; a person who commands the attention of other villagers; a frank, effective and fearless person. Challenges for DPCs and VPCs are inadequate capacity to handle conflict and security matters of the members and the lack of funding for these activities. Funding is meant to facilitate movement either by bicycle or cars and to provide food, tobacco and local brew for elders during VPC-meetings, in addition to passing on messages about impending raids or attacks.
One insider reports from interviews with the police and community members that cattle raids have reduced, although cattle theft still occurs. However, road ambushes have ceased and a level of peace is returning to Karamoja. [I]
On the national level, an interesting development is taking place. The National Governing Council of the African Peer Review Mechanism Process of Uganda convened a high-level consultation in July 2010 on the need to establish appropriate institutional mechanisms for ensuring long lasting peace and stability in the country, to address the country's burgeoning conflicts over land, natural resources and traditional authority. The establishment of a viable conflict management system is a work in progress. [II]
[I] Information from John Fisher Tumwesigye, Centre for Conflict Resolution (CECORE), Uganda
[II] Chetan Kumar, Building National Infrastructures for Peace: UN Assistance for Internally Negotiated Solutions to Violent Conflict; (2012); in: Peacemaking: From Practice to Theory, edit. by Susan Allen Nan, Zacharia Cherian Mampilly, Andrea Bartoli; Praeger, 2012, p. 388