Northern Uganda: Peace and incomes help to boost recovery
In the six years since the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebel group was driven out of the country, the improved security in northern Uganda is enabling tens of thousands of conflict-affected people to rebuild their lives by earning incomes from small businesses, and gaining access to land for agriculture.
“I am very happy to see that people have returned home,” said UNDP deputy chief Rebeca Grynspan earlier this month in Tetugu, close to Gulu town in northern Uganda, the former epicenter of the rebel group’s atrocities.
“The restoration of relative security has permitted some progress in the recovery process, and UNDP is committed to continuing to support peace and development in the region,” said Grynspan, as she participated in a village meeting, known as a baraza, where community members discuss and resolve issues with the support of the Uganda Human Rights Commission.
Over the past few years, UNDP has been working with other UN agencies and the authorities to restore security and livelihoods in the conflict-affected areas, through a joint Peacebuilding programme.
This contributes to the government’s broader Peace Recovery and Development Plan for Northern Uganda that is designed to lay a firm foundation for recovery and development by 2015.
Since it was formed over two decadesago in Uganda, the LRA is believed to have killed more than 15,000 people and displaced approximately 2 million others. Since 2006, the group has been operating in the border areas of neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic and South Sudan.
In Tetugu, Ms Grynspan also met with 10 survivors of the LRA attacks who have undergone reconstructive surgery with the support of the UN Peacebuilding Programme.
Among them, 26-year old Nancy Auma from Awach, 20 miles from Tetugu, who was abducted by the LRA, who cut off her nose, ears and lips. She was ostracized when she returned home.
Auma is one of the 447 people, including children, who have undergone surgical procedures such as the removal bullets and plastic surgery, and have been able to resume their day-to-day activities.
As part of its broader programme of support to the recovery process the northeast Karamoja sub-region, during 2010 and 2011, UNDP provided entrepreneurship training to more than 1,920 women and youth involved in self-help enterprise groups, where members accumulate savings and take turns to borrow from the fund.
The members now run their own small businesses managing grinding mills, motor cycles, vehicles, small honey processing plants and eating houses, helping to raise incomes and rebuild social networks.
In 2011, an additional 2,100 Karamojong women and youth were involved in cash-for-work programmes including road works and construction, enabling them save and engage in similar income-generating activities.
Similarly, in the north-central Acholi region, UNDP trained some 4,000 women and youth to run their own businesses and worked with six local micro-finance institutions to support the new business owners to access financial services.
To improve food security and increase incomes, 6,000 households in the north-central Lango sub-region received almost 10,000 farming tools, including hoes, and 300 ox-ploughs, as well as 150 oxen to help cultivate the land.
The massive displacement of people during the conflict also caused land tenure irregularities, identified as a possible driver of conflict as people returned to their villages. To support the judiciary address this issue, UNDP trained 480 local government officials from land committees, and sub-county and local courts, to handle regulatory issues related to access to land as they arise.