Northern Uganda has experienced over two decades of civil war during which tens of thousands of people were abducted, mutilated or killed. Approximately 1.8 million people were forced to move to camps for displaced people.
Although the civil war ended in 2006, the after-effects have resulted in continued fragility and a sense of conflict existing just beneath the surface. Government efforts to reduce the poverty rates and improve peace in the region have had mixed results.
Disputes over land and natural resources are the most prominent drivers of conflict in the north. Most people depend on land to support themselves, as subsistence farmers or looking after animals (pastoralists). The growing realisation that the land and its resources are potentially valuable has made the sale of land and land-grabbing more common. Land is also allocated for forest and wildlife conservation.
Communities themselves are not united in how they want to use the land. The selling or loaning of land by someone in the community to the government or private investors without consultation can lead to internal conflicts. Inheritance disputes, the return of displaced people and the rights of widows to own land also result in conflict over boundaries.
Although women are the main users of land, men dominate decisions about its use and management. The majority of land is owned by men as customary laws limit women’s independent ownership. Women reported high levels of violence when claiming their rights to land, including physical, sexual, emotional and economic abuse.
Climate change is forcing pastoralists to go further to find food and water for their cattle. As more groups try to use ever decreasing resources conflicts can arise.
How we’re responding
Cord is working with local partners to reduce gender based violence.
Communities are being encouraged to involve women in decisions about how to manage natural resources like land and water, how to cope with climate change and how to resolve disputes fairly and peacefully. Communities are establishing alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, training local people in how to resolve conflicts and demarcate land.
Hope on the horizon
Thousands of families around the world face the threat of losing their land, and with it, their homes and means to survive. But hope is uniting these poor communities; they are rising up against injustice. And you can stand shoulder to shoulder with them.