The recent conflict in northern Uganda was identified as one of the worst humanitarian crises in Africa. For two decades, the region was decimated by violent atrocities perpetrated by the Lord’s Resistance Army. This Initiative was developed and implemented at a pivotal time as peace was just...

After Violent Oppression, Prosperity

The recent conflict in northern Uganda was identified as one of the worst humanitarian crises in Africa. For two decades, the region was decimated by violent atrocities perpetrated by the Lord’s Resistance Army.

This Initiative was developed and implemented at a pivotal time as peace was just beginning to emerge in 2007, after two decades of violent conflict. At this critical moment in the conflict recovery process, the Strategic Initiative aimed to enhance the prospect of long-term development and peace for the Acholi community by addressing the direct needs of those affected.

Strategic Initiative

SECTOR

Disaster Recovery

TOTAL INVESTMENT

US$ 1,524,048

LOCATION

Uganda

LIVES CHANGED

60,547

SOCIAL IMPACT INDEX

74.4 (out of 100)

AVERAGE COST PER LIFE

US$ 25.17

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SI Breakdown:

Key Achievements

  • Increased income through farming – 11,286 community members enjoy increased family income and nutrition, as a result of agricultural livelihood support. Arable land is being returned to production.
  • Conflict resolution training at the community level – 28,231 community members were trained in reconciliation and peaceful means of conflict resolution and community dialogue.
  • Psychosocial support – 6,763 community members were provided with trauma counselling.
  • Income for the war-afflicted – Income generating activities benefitted 9,266 community members, particularly child mothers and ex-combatants. 3,683 former abductees, orphans and child mothers acquired vocational skills and basic education.

The Problem

The recent conflict in northern Uganda was identified as one of the worst humanitarian crises in Africa. For two decades, the region was decimated by violent atrocities perpetrated by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). The group, formed in 1987 and led by Josephy Kony, engaged in an armed rebellion against the Ugandan government in what became one of Africa’s longest-running conflicts. Infamous for its child soldiers and for the abduction and abuse of young girls, the LRA committed widespread human rights violations, including murder, abduction, rape, mutilation, sexual enslavement of women and children, and forcing children to participate in hostilities. As a result of the conflict, close to two million internally displaced people (IDPs) fled to camps in Pader, Lira, Gulu and other locations where they survived for a generation on international aid.

Solution

This Initiative was developed and implemented at a pivotal time as peace was just beginning to emerge in 2007, after two decades of violent conflict. Confined to IDP camps and reliant on international aid for almost a generation, the Acholi people, a pastoralist ethnic group, returned to their homes in Pader district in northern Uganda as the IDP camps were closed.

At this critical moment in the conflict recovery process, the Strategic Initiative aimed to enhance the prospect of long-term development and peace for the Acholi community by addressing the direct needs of those affected. Over three years, the Initiative invested over US $1.5 million in the provision of agricultural and vocational training, microenterprise development, and psychosocial support to community members. Six local organisations facilitated the resettlement process and the resumption of livelihoods, focussing on families and the hardest hit victims of conflict: former child soldiers, orphans and child mothers who were victims of sexual enslavement.

The Initiative sought to support returnees, key to the future prosperity of the region, while encouraging awareness that one must work for prosperity and harmony – promoting self-sufficiency instead of dependency in order to restore dignity. The Initiative aimed to reach over 47,000 people.

Critical Analysis

The LRA has been expelled to the Central African Republic where they still make incursions into Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Over the course of this Strategic Initiative, northern Uganda has progressed from a region with occasional conflict to hostility-free and, more recently, to a secure state. This SI endeavoured to create a framework to foster economic prosperity, provide learning opportunities, and create platforms for community dialogue to enhance human security in a still fragile environment. Project outcomes indicate that as people have gained confidence in their future prospects, they have increasingly invested themselves in the opportunities for sustainable livelihoods, shifting the focus from subsistence and survival to independence and wealth creation.

This is, however, far from a tension-free zone. With people returning to their traditional lands, there is increasing tension around land rights. Child mothers and ex-combatants endeavouring to reintegrate into society face major resentment barriers.

This SI invested in future building at the grass-roots level, addressing very practical issues faced by a community emerging from years of violent oppression. In total, over 60,000 people have benefitted directly from this targeted investment. But it has also touched softer aspects of human security such as dignity, identity, belonging, liberty and happiness. When the SI began, the very fragile ceasefire was identified as a major external risk factor. We are glad to report that the peace has held and the SI has been completed without incident – to some extent a vindication of the boldness of the Legatum Foundation’s investment at such a crucial but risky time.

A key obstacle observed in the granting strategy was the dependency syndrome of people who have lived for a generation on external aid. This has indeed been a challenge, but the economic empowerment programmes have guided people on the journey toward self-sufficiency. This SI has helped people get a foothold on the prosperity ladder. It will now be up to individuals and communities to determine what they do with this foothold, no matter how precarious it may be.

Lessons Learned

Successes:

Validating philanthropic investment in disaster recovery – Acting at an extremely opportune time, this Initiative has helped establish livelihoods and restore communities debilitated by violence. Achieving the highest Social Impact Score of all the SIs, this philanthropic investment validates the value of strategic philanthropic granting to conflict and disaster recovery programmes.

Valuing local knowledge – The planned return of people to their traditional land was expected to occur in three phases: first to support people to return to a ‘satellite camp’ close to their historical homelands where more than 200 families would live for a year or more in collective security. This was to be followed by a sub-satellite camp for a year before moving on to individual family ‘homesteads.’ However, once people became accustomed to the satellite camps, they realised that they could skip the sub-satellite phase and move directly from satellite camp to homestead when security was assured. The lesson learned: Never try to think for a community. Community members are more than capable of thinking for themselves and can determine what is best for them.

Challenges:

Developing a community of practice – This SI offered an ideal environment for the development of a community of practice; all the NGOs were based in the same town and all were involved in projects that had similar components. There was clearly a lot to be gained from a community of practice, but one did not really blossom. When the Legatum Foundation brought implementers together, there was immediate enhanced programme delivery, such as collective purchasing potential, which could have offset the costs of maintaining a community of practice. A designated lead agency may be required to mobilise and maintain a community of practice, as the process does not seem to happen naturally.

Unintended consequences of phased funding – In the last year of implementation, we phased the funding in two tranches. This makes sense, especially in the final year, in order to have leverage over implementers to get data when they may be winding down their programmes and less responsive to a departing donor. On reflection, we found that this phasing required quite sophisticated budgeting, especially in a largely agricultural programme that required seasonal expenditure. This proved more than the implementers were capable of, and in hindsight, it was probably not the best approach to have adopted in this context.

Northern Uganda Conflict Recovery: Featured Projects

SII ScoreProject NameGrantLives ChangedCost Per LifeSector
88.00 Gulu Youth Development Association$197,1496,972$28.28
84.00 Women and Rural Development Network$154,67022,122$6.99
83.60 Friends of Orphans (FOO)$262,1436,480$40.45
68.40 Acholi Private Sector (APS)$250,0868,402$29.77
64.80 Life Child Initiative (LICHI)$580,00013,077$44.35
57.60 Facilitation for Peach and Development$75,0003,494$21.47
Note: The Social Impact Index Score reflects the relative social impact of a given development project. The lowest possible score is 20; the highest possible score is 100.

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