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).

KARAMOJA - In Nakapelimoru village, Kotido district, a large herd of cows has gone missing from the Jie, one of the region's native pastoral communities. A new settlement tribe of the Turkana from across Kenya is suspected of having stolen the cows, and the only course of justice for the Jie, is to retaliate in a counter-raid and recover the stolen loot.

In this community, cows are sacred. Not only are they are a source of wealth and livelihood but are also a mark of social standing. When cows are stolen, it is a serious business that inevitably generates in to violence. In this particular case however, the conflict is averted before it happens after police officers in the district intervene in the nick of time and encourage the two communities to sit together and discuss how to resolve the problem of the missing cows without resorting to arms.

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

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

For decades, the region has been a hub of internal and intra-regional conflict and was previously an enclave of cattle rustlers with guns,cattle raids and high rates of sexual gender based violence. Whereas a successful government disarmament process in 2012 brought relative peace to the region, this remains fragile as the majority of the community remains redudant with few economic prospects especially for the large numbers of unemployed youth.

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 its support, UNDP has trained over 300 police officers in Northern Uganda, with about 100 of those from the Karamoja region alone.

The training has already seen a rise in police-led community dialogues which have contributed in averting inter-ethnic conflict as was the case with the Jie and the Turkana.

"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 testify that the police are friendlier and see them as allies and partners in ensuring that their villages are more peaceful. So far, 45 community peace dialogues led by the police in the Baraza style (village townhall meetings) have been conducted reaching over 4600 people in Northern Uganda, particularly in the major crime hotspots such as Kaabong, Kotido, Nakapiripirit, Amudat and Moroto districts.

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 training is over.

The training contributes to the larger United Nations' country effort to deliver as one and have benefitted from the input of various sister 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. Police have also received additional support in form of information and education materials for 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. The project aims to strengthen the post conflict recovery process in Northern Uganda as it transitions into the development phase.