The Karamojong live astride the borders of Uganda, Sudan, Kenya, and Ethiopia. Theestimated 1.4 million members of the pastoral and agro-pastoral ethnic groups whoconstitute what is known as the Karamoja Cluster mostly share a common language andculture. They have long been politically and economically marginalized and exploited.Successive colonial and post-independence regimes have failed to understand the rootcauses of cattle raiding and arms trafficking in the region or to seek any non-violentresponses to endemic violence and anarchy. Sporadic attempts at forcible disarmamenthave failed abysmally and only served to fuel local antagonisms. Failure to address the ways in which modern weaponry enters the region has meant that as soon as conflict andarmed violence subsides in one area it has flared up in others. Serious insecurity includingcattle raiding, banditry, and road ambushes, exacerbated by pervasive use of illegal weapons and collapse of elaborate social constraints which used to limit bloodshed,present a significant law and order problem in Karamoja. This study is the fruit of extensive research by authors who themselves belong to the ethnicgroups they study. Primarily focusing on the sub-groups of the Karamoja region of northeastern Uganda, they also interviewed local people and state and civil society actorsin neighboring Kenya and Southern Sudan. Their study is part of the FeinsteinInternational Center’s work to address the wider regional perspective and ensure a holisticand cross-border approach to conflict prevention, disarmament, demobilization of armedcombatants, justice, law and order, and promotion of sustainable livelihoods. The currentpolicy of key international donor governments, the World Bank, the United Nations, andthe African Union of addressing the conflicts in Northern Uganda, Eastern Uganda, andSouthern Sudan in relative isolation may ultimately guarantee that armed conflictcontinues in the region. The Ugandan government’s search for a military solution tolawlessness in Karamoja is only contributing to greater insecurity and further humanrights violations. The problem, argues the authors, is not so much the gun as the lack of governance. This paper offers important insights into how the people of the region assessthe reasons for the violence. The authors conclude that policymakers must stop proposingsolutions based on ignorance of the ecology, production systems, culture, and livelihoods of the Karamojong. This study was funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), theCanadian International Development Agency (CIDA), Unicef-Uganda, AVSI-Uganda, and theFeinstein International Center-Tufts University. A number of people provided feedback atbriefings conducted in Kampala, Moroto, Washington, and New York and these insightsand additions were helpful in finalizing the report. We thank Tim Morris for editorialassistance.
Feinstein International Center