Ethnicity and armed conflicts in Uganda: a case of the Lord’s Resistance Army rebellion
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Ethnic allegiance has been the most deterministic factor for political support in Uganda. This is because Ugandans take their ethno-cultural identity and historical background quite strongly. In some cases, cultural enthusiasm is politically radicalized into ethnic militancy including Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). This thesis focuses on the conflict between the LRA, originally based in Acholi-land, and the Government of Uganda. Using archival materials, journals and interviews as well as secondary sources including newspapers, the researcher investigated the extent to which Acholi ethnic nationalism contributed to the rise and longevity of the LRA. The main geographical scope of this study is Acholi-land, which comprises the present districts of Gulu, Kitgum, Pader and Amuru. However, the researcher also reviewed other regions of northern Uganda in order to get alternative opinions about Acholi ethnicity and the LRA. On the temporal scale, the study commences with a probe into the pre-colonial Acholi to trace the origins of Acholi ethnic nationalism. Nevertheless, its main thrust is on the LRA, which emerged soon after the 1986 victory of the National Resistance Army (NRA). It ends in August 2006 when peace talks commenced between the LRA and the Government of Uganda in Juba, Southern Sudan. Conflict is a manifestation of incompatibility of goals, which arises from the struggle for scarce resources. Various theories explain the occurrence of ethnic conflicts. This thesis is predicated on the theory of Instrumentalism, which asserts that ethnicity is a function of structural conditions in society. Instrumentalists argue that ethnic identities wax and wane, contingent on a wide variety of variables, including the capacity and skills of political entrepreneurs, who can effectively mobilize groups for collective aims (Timothy D. Sisk, 200). To them, ethnicity acts as a pole around which group members can mobilize and compete for state-controlled power and economic resources (Donald Rothchild, 1997). They further contend that ethnicity has its foundation in combined remembrances of the past and in common inspirations, values, norms, and expectations (Donald Rothchild, 1997). The Acholi are nostalgic about the past, the pre-1986 era when they were hegemonic in the military and the politics of Uganda. We contend that ethnic identities per say are not negative. Nevertheless, their manipulation induces negative outcomes. Our findings, inter-alias, are that the LRA rebellion is rooted in Uganda’s challenge of developing a legitimate system of governance that promotes the collective aspiration of its ethnically plural society. The prolongation of the war, however, is contingent on external factors including financial and logistical support from the Sudan.