Community Policing promotes peace in Karamoja Region

A policeman addressing community members during one of the community dialogue sessions in Panyangara sub-county, Kotido District (Photo: Paul Ahura/UNDPUganda2014).

In Nakapelimoru village, Kotido district, two communities of cattle keepers are about to go to war, cows have gone missing! A new settlement tribe of the Turuka from Kenya is suspected of having stolen cows from the native Jie tribe.

In this community cows are sacred; they are a source of pride, wealth and livelihood. Therefore when cows are stolen, violent conflict is bound to happen. However in this case, the conflict is averted before it happens after police officers in the district intervene and encourage the two communities to sit together and discuss how to resolve the problem of the missing cows instead of resorting to violence.

These police officers are able to intervene not only because it’s their role to maintain law and order but also because of their skills in community policing and managing peace dialogues in the communities. Skills they got after a training supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) through its Local Development and Social Cohesion Project for Northern Uganda Project. The training involved educating the police on how to involve communities in maintaining law and order, showing them how to seek peaceful and legal redress for any crimes that have been committed within the communities.

Key Highlights

  • 100 police officers have been trained in the Karamoja region so far, with numbers of trained officers going up to 300 in the entire Northern Uganda.
  • Trained police officers have conducted 45 community peace dialogues in baraza style.
  • These dialogues have reached 4600 people in the entire region.
  • Six community based security groups to ensure active involvement of the community in keeping the peace

In a community which has experienced both internal and intra-regional conflict, Karamoja’s new wave of peace is fragile and trainings such as these are important in ensuring that this peace is sustainable.

In a region, which has experienced both internal and intra-regional conflict and was previously an enclave of cattle rustlers with guns, raiding and counter raiding each other’s cattle and reporting high rates of sexual gender based violence. A successful government disarmament process in 2012 brought relative peace to the region however this new wave of peace is a fragile since the community has been left redundant and cycles of cattle raiding, counter raiding, theft, murder, gender based violence and many others continue to tilt this delicate balance of stability.

It is for this reason that the UNDP is focusing efforts on community justice and peaceful resolution of disputes in the region. As part of this project, UNDP has partnered with Uganda Police to train over 300 police officers in the Northern Uganda region, with about 100 of those from the Karamoja region alone.

The training has already seen a rise in police led community dialogues which have averted conflict as was the case with the communities in Nakapelimoru village in Kotido district.

"Without community policing, it is impossible to provide security to millions of community members with a small police force in the region,” James Bangira, Assistant Commissioner of Police and Regional Police Commander Kidepo Region said while speaking during one of the trainings. Community members agree that the police are friendlier so they do not ran away from them anymore but instead work with them in ensuring that their villages are more peaceful.

This project is also being conducted all over the Northern Uganda region and so far 45 community peace dialogues led by the police in the baraza style have been conducted reaching over 4600 people in the entire region. They are still going on in all the major crime hotspots in the region especially in the districts of Kaabong, Kotido, Nakapiripirit, Amudat and Moroto.

Already six community based security groups, two in Moroto and four in Kabong, have been formed during the sessions to ensure that both the police and the community will continue to be actively involved in maintaining peace even when funding for the trainings is over.

The trainings are part of the United Nations efforts to deliver as one and have also been supported by other UN agencies including International Organisation for Migration (IOM), UN Women, UN office of the High Commissioner for Human rights (OHCHR), UNICEF, UNFPA who shared their technical experience in the areas of peaceful conflict resolution and preventing gender based violence among other things. They have also provided the police with information and education materials that the police use in their community dialogue sessions.

The Local Development and Social Cohesion Project for Northern Uganda Project is funded by UNDP from its core resources and its Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery (BCPR) to a tune of 2.2M US dollars for two years to among other things strengthen the post conflict recovery process in Northern Uganda as it transits into the development phase.