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Factbook

Mapping environmental conflicts and cooperation

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Communal Conflicts Across the Kenyan-Ugandan Border

Type of conflict sub
Intensity 3
Region
Eastern Africa
Time 1944 ‐ ongoing
Countries Kenya, Uganda
Resources Agricultural / Pastoral Land, Water
Conflict Summary Livestock raiding and competition for water and pastures lead to cycles of reciprocal violence between pastoralist groups in the Kenyan-Ugandan border region...
Communal Conflicts Across the Kenyan-Ugandan Border
Livestock raiding and competition for water and pastures lead to cycles of reciprocal violence between pastoralist groups in the Kenyan-Ugandan border region. More frequent and severe droughts as well as the proliferation of weapons from war-torn neighbour countries are further aggravating this situation.
Conceptual Model

Climate Change

The Kenyan-Ugandan border region, also known as ‘Karamoja cluster’, is known for its harsh environmental conditions and erratic rainfall. Recently, the area has been affected by more frequent and severe droughts.

Intermediary Mechanisms

In order to cope with the inhospitable environment, pastoralist groups have regularly clashed over livestock, water, and grazing resources. A series of particularly serious droughts, as well as the increased availability of modern weapons have exacerbated tensions between groups.

Fragility and Conflict Risks

Due to the porousness of borders in the Karamoja cluster, these conflicts often include groups from different countries. Between 1998 and 2008, cross-border attacks between groups from Kenya and Uganda amounted to more than 800 deaths.

Climate ChangeEnvironmental ChangeIntermediary MechanismsFragility and Conflict RisksSocial and Economic DriversMore frequent/intense extreme weather events reduce available natural resources.Reduced availability of/access to natural resources reduces available resources and ecosystem services.Reduced availability of/access to natural resources leads to distributive conflicts between societal groups.An increase in the frequency and/or intensity of extreme weather events, such as floods or droughts.More Frequent / Intense Extreme Weather EventsGrowing scarcity of essential natural resources.Natural Resource ScarcityReduced availability of essential natural resources, such as land and water.Change in Access / Availability of Natural ResourcesNon-violent or violent tensions and conflicts between different societal groups.Grievances between Societal Groups
Context Factors
  • Water-stressed Area
  • History of Conflict
  • Low Level of Economic Development
  • Weak Institutions
Conflict History

The border area between Kenya and Uganda, also known as ‘Karamoja cluster’ is home to several pastoralist groups. As a way to cope with erratic rainfall and generally harsh environmental conditions, these groups have frequently engaged in violent conflicts over livestock, water and grazing resources. In recent times, these have been exacerbated by the increased availability of modern weapons from war-torn neighbour countries, as well as a series of particularly serious droughts. Due to the porousness of international boundaries in the Karamoja cluster these conflicts often oppose groups from different countries, such as the Pokot and Turkana from Kenya and the Dodoth, Jie, Sabiny and several Karimojong groups from Uganda. Between 1998 and 2008, cross-border attacks between these groups amounted to more than 800 human deaths, with about 450 fatalities reported for the year 2000 alone (UCDP, 2014).

Drought, automatic weapons and porous borders
Increased availability of modern weapons, the gradual erosion of customary conflict mitigation institutions, the lack of adequate state protection as well as frequent droughts and the general vulnerability of pastoralist communities are among the main factors contributing to communal conflicts in the Karamoja cluster (Powell, 2010; Stark et al., 2011; Huho, 2012).

Yet, the porousness of the Kenyan-Ugandan border provides additional opportunities for livestock raiding, as raiders are able to escape across the border and evade prosecution. On several occasions, groups such as the Pokot have also moved across the border to avoid disarmament by the Kenyan Army. Moreover, the permeability of the border facilitates the illicit transit of weapons (Leff, 2009; Matthysen et al., 2008).

Challenges of cross-border peace-building
Both, the governments of Kenya and Uganda, as well as numerous NGOs, church-based organisations and grassroots initiatives have engaged in various strategies to curb violence across the Kenyan-Ugandan border. Yet, the effectiveness of these measures has been put in doubt and fear of attacks from groups across the border remains an ongoing concern among local communities. Especially the projected increase in drought frequency over the next years could lead to a renewed flaring up of cross-border violence.

Resolution Efforts

In the past, the Kenyan and Ugandan governments have adopted heavy handed military disarmament strategies in the cross border region, which have been criticised for excessive brutality and for making disarmed communities susceptible to attacks by other groups, which were able to avoid disarmament by crossing the border (Powell, 2010; Stark et al., 2011).

Towards more participatory approaches to conflict prevention
More recently, both governments have begun working more closely with civil society in resolving cross-border disputes. Conflict prevention through sensitization campaigns, mediation interventions and negotiations for the safe return of stolen cattle are core elements of this strategy. For instance, local organisations such as Riam Riam (in Kenya) and KOPEIN (in Uganda) have acted as intermediary between communities, local government, military and police forces, Human Rights Commission and other NGOs (Oxfam and SNV), representing the interests and security needs of local communities, whilst promoting dialogue and peaceful resource sharing. Most notably they helped Turkana and Dodoth communities from Kenya and Uganda reaching a provisional peace agreement in 2005 (Leff, 2009).

Cross-border peace-building initiatives
The International Rescue Committee is supporting cultural activities and other grassroots initiatives that promote peace across the Uganda-Kenya border. The Karamoja Cluster Project (KCP), a collaborative project between the University for Peace (UPEACE), Uganda Martyrs University (UMU) and Children Peace Initiative (CPI-Kenya), the Pian-Pokot-Sabiny Cross Border conflict Programme, as well as the Turkana-Pokot-Sabiny Cross-Border Conflict Management Initiative, engage local communities across the border and promote cooperative sharing of pastoral resources (Stark et al., 2011; Leff, 2009).

ACTED is building pastoral field schools and training communal animal health workers so as to link and involve different communities from both sides of the border. These organizations have helped improving the situation of communities in the region. Yet, in most cases, their activities have remained small in scope and thus not received much attention from the international and donor community (Lambroschini, 2011).

Need for further coordination and cooperation
Main challenges to cross-border peacebuilding initiatives remain. The implication of multiple stakeholders and the coordination of multiple actions across the border entail high organisational costs, whereas most local organisations and leaders lack the necessary capacities. Disregard of traditional conflict mitigation institutions and lack of active community involvement further compound these problems. Most importantly, disarmament needs to be better coordinated across the border and the security of disarmed communities needs to be improved (Lambroschini, 2011; Powell, 2010).

Despite increasing peacebuilding efforts, the continuation of violent livestock raiding, increasingly frequent droughts and the resulting disruption of social and economic life continue to impede efforts to reduce vulnerability and conflict in the Kenyan-Ugandan cross-border area

 

Intensities & Influences
conflict intensity scale
Intensities
International / Geopolitical Intensity
Human Suffering

Influences
Environmental Influences
Societal Influences

Manifest Crisis
Fatalities
800
Violent Conflict Yes
Salience within nation Regional
Resources
Agricultural / Pastoral Land, Water
Resolution Success
Reduction in Violence There was no reduction in violence.
Reduction in geographical scope There has been no reduction in geographical scope.
Increased capacity to address grievance in the future The capacity to address grievances in the future has increased.
Grievance Resolution Grievances have been partially addressed.
Causal Attribution of Decrease in Conflict Intensity There has been no reduction in intensity
General opencollapse
Country Data in Comparison
ConflictNoData Created with Sketch.
Fault Lines Defining Conflict Parties
Purely Environmental | Cultural   ♦   Occupational   ♦   Economic   ♦   Urban / Rural   ♦   National / International conflict   ♦   Sub-national political


Actors
Participation Conflict Party     Conflict Resolution Facilitator
Government of Kenya
Functional GroupPublic
Geographical ScaleInternal National
Government of Uganda
Functional GroupPublic
Geographical ScaleInternal National
Turkana community
Functional GroupCivil Society
Geographical ScaleInternal Grassroots
Pokot community
Functional GroupCivil Society
Geographical ScaleInternal Grassroots
Jie community
Functional GroupCivil Society
Geographical ScaleInternal Grassroots
Dodoth community
Functional GroupCivil Society
Geographical ScaleInternal Grassroots
Karimojong communities
Functional GroupCivil Society
Geographical ScaleInternal Grassroots
Sabiny community
Functional GroupCivil Society
Geographical ScaleInternal Grassroots
Entry Points for Resilience and Peace Building
3 Cooperation Both the Kenyan and Ugandan governments have begun working closely with civil society in resolving cross-border disputes, through sensitization campaigns, mediation interventions, and negotiations for the safe return of stolen cattle.
2 Promoting peaceful relations Several cross-border peace-building initiatives are engaging local communities and promoting cooperative sharing of pastoral resources.
Further Details opencollapse
Conflict Characterization
Character of the contested good Common-pool resource: No one can be excluded from use but the good is depleted.
Structure of decision-making power / interdependence Symmetric: All parties can affect the environmental resource equally.
Broad conflict characterization Resource capture is not present.
Ecological marginalization is not present.
Data of involved Countries
Resources and Materials opencollapse
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