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Summary of Tradition in Transition

Summary of Tradition in Transition

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Published by: Feinstein International Center on Nov 07, 2012
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Strengthening the humanity and dignity of people in crisis through knowledge and practice
Tradition in Transition:
Customary Authority in Karamoja, Uganda
OCTOBER 2012
Khristopher Carlson, Keith Proctor, Elizabeth Stites, and Darlington Akabwai
Summary of 
 
IN KARAMOJA
, customary law is more than alegalistic code governing right rom wrong.Rather, it is the normative ramework thatregulates the judicial, political, social, andreligious processes o the groups that live withinthe region. Coordinated by elder males withineach community, customary law historicallyprovided a vital means or maintaining socialcohesion, adjudicating crime, urnishing aramework or mediating inter-group conict, andcoordinating resource sharing. This study ocusedon capturing the current status o customaryauthority among our groups: the Jie and Dodothin northern Karamoja and the Tepeth andMatheniko in southern Karamoja.For a number o reasons, customary law hassharply declined in inuence and eectiveness inrecent decades among the our groups. First, boththe loss o livestock due to increased raiding and ashit away rom pastoral livelihoods haveundamentally transormed customary institutions.Customary law hinged on livestock, whichprovided both the means or compensation andthe resource necessary or the most importantsocial rituals (e.g., initiation, marriage, death).Second, changing worldviews among the peopleo Karamoja – due to increased trade, education,and migration – are challenging the old culturalmonopoly o traditional approaches. Third,authority in Karamoja is rooted in processes o generational succession. Those processes havebroken down in many places in recent year andinitiations or young men have largely ceased(although this is starting to change in some areas).This has resulted in a rit between elders and those younger men impatient or greater social roles intheir communities. Fourth, the rise o crime – particularly those crimes perpetrated byThis is the summary o a longer report which can be ound on the Feinstein International Center website at c.tuts.edu. The authors thank Irish Aid Kampala or supporting this work, with particularecognition to Pronch Murray, Wendy Kasujja and Fearghal MacCarthaigh. Fieldwork was assisted byIrene Emanikor, Joyce Ilukori, Luke Lonyiko, Joshua Kidon, Michael Kapolon and Samson Lorika.All photographs are by Khristopher Carlson.
 
Summary • Tradition in Transition: Customary Authority in Karamoja, Uganda
3
impoverished younger males – has impaired theauthority o customary institutions and aggravatedthe problems o livestock shortages. Fith, as eldershave lost control over their communities, their ability to negotiate with other groups has alsodeclined, undermining the ability o customaryinstitutions to guarantee the regional peace.Lastly, ormal state institutions are increasinglyproviding another nexus o power in Karamojawhich otentimes contradicts the authority o theelders.Nevertheless, throughout Karamoja customaryinstitutions continue to provide a number o important services to their communities and theregion. In many places this study ound that eldersprovide the best means or adjudicating crimes andresolving disputes. This is particularly true wherestate institutions, such as the courts or police, lackresources or are not seen as trustworthy.Customary law is a community aair, andthereore in many places is believed to be aster and more transparent in process than the ormalsystem. Furthermore, customary law is oten apreerable avenue or victims because it is rootedin processes o compensation; in contrast, ormalinstitutions typically provide no guarantee o compensation. Lastly, in a manner distinct romormal penal processes, the goal o customary lawis the maintenance o social cohesion, andtraditional institutions are ocused on resolvingdisputes in a way that heal communal relationshipsrayed by crimes.One o the goals o this study was to track theperceptions o customary law, and its presenteectiveness or ineectiveness, across demographicclasses among the our groups. A great deal o variation was apparent between and even withincommunities, but a number o general trends werealso apparent. Among community elders, there is areluctance to believe that customary institutionsthemselves are weak or ill-suited to the times.

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