Crisis in Karamoja: Armed Violence and the Failure of Disarmament in Uganda’s Most Deprived Region

Violence in Uganda’s Karamoja region is, for many people, the exemplar of Africa’s pastoral wars. The area hosts a number of sub-clans that, together, comprise the Karimojong—a population fractured by protracted inter-clan conflicts over cattle, pasture, and access to resources. Karamoja suffers significantly higher levels of small arms violence (death and injury by firearm) than any other region of Uganda. Since the 1970s, with the proliferation of modern assault rifles, cattle raids have escalated in lethality. A commensurate rise in armed criminality, in which acts of violence are increasingly orchestrated irrespective of community norms on the use of force, has severely impaired the region’s socio-economic development. This paper explores the dynamics behind armed violence in Karamoja and the scale and distribution of its impacts. It is the product of two years of research focused on the Karimojong and neighbouring clans, and presents findings from an extensive range of research methods, including household surveys, interviews, and focus group studies throughout the region.

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2008

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