An assessment of civil society organisations’ role in peace building in Uganda: A case study of the Acholi religious leaders’ peace initiative.
Kiiza, Francis Charles
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The study which was carried between 1998 and 2008 was an assessment of the role of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in Peace building in Uganda. Acholi Religious Leaders’ Peace Initiative (ARLPI) was used as a case study. The objectives of the study were; to establish how the different interventions employed by the ARLPI in Acholiland to find sustainable solutions to the illusive conflict provided a more effective peace building process than other stakeholders and to determine the challenges faced by ARLPI’s towards peace building in Acholi Sub- region. Following the conflict between the embittered Lord’s Resistance Army/Movement and the government of Uganda, responsible for the disruption of families and community structures in Acholiland since 1986, various peace efforts had been made by a number of individuals, Civil Society Organizations and the government to restore peace in the area. Despite the numerous peace efforts by all stakeholders, peace in this region remained elusive. The Acholi Religious Leaders’ Peace Initiative was singled out because of its outstanding role and resilience in the peace building process in Acholiland. Compared to other Civil Society Organisations which were working in the region at that time, ARLPI had a rich and detailed profile which provided a proactive response to the conflict through community based mediation services, advocacy and lobby and peace building activities. The study used both qualitative and quantitative research methods to collect analyze and present data. However, the researcher relied more on the qualitative method to obtain information on non-quantifiable items such as the main effects of conflict on peace in Acholiland, the experience of the people in the region as a result of the conflict and the possible mechanisms to curtail the problem. Employing the qualitative research enabled the researcher to better capture both conflict and peace building as processes. This reaffirmed Amin (2005) observation that qualitative data gathering procedures are considered more useful to the diversity of “multiple realties” one finds in the complex field situations. The findings revealed and reaffirmed that ARLPI was a credible actor positioning its’ interventions more effectively. ARLPI was generally held in high esteem due to its effectiveness in efforts directed at peace building in Acholiland. The wide range of interventional activities that brought together the community to the peace building effort was another element that made the ARLPI interventions more effective. ARLPI’s role in peace building was rated high especially in peace talks (research findings) with the support from the international community and agencies through the creation of awareness, bringing warring parties together and providing moral and financial support. However, ARLPI faced numerous challenges such as the indecisiveness of the government and the LRA/M to dialogue; the indictments that hampered a visible peace agreement from being signed by warring parties; the multiplicity of stakeholders and interveners complicating the scope of the conflict; and the inability of the Acholi Religious’ Leaders to form a formidable mediating organisation. The Government position about the path to peace in Northern Uganda was the greatest challenge in as much as the government remained noncommittal to dialogue. The interventions of ARLPI presented a broad-based approach that was strongly felt to have the ability to deliver peace faster than many interventions before or of other Civil Society Organisations working on the peace process in Acholiland. In their initiative, the religious leaders addressed past anomalies and laid a foundation for sustainable peace building. The ARLPI also recognised a wider range of stakeholders to the conflict: local community, LRA/M, government of Uganda, civil society and the international community. The message proclaimed by ARLPI was unique and consistent that dialogue, forgiveness and reconciliation were key elements in peace building, given the nature of the conflict in Northern Uganda. The researcher recommends CSOs to continue a broad-based approach with a unique and specific message for dialogue, forgiveness and reconciliation. Stakeholders should therefore focus on conflict transformation. They should look at how they can make positive statements and turn them into action to make the society better, not only materially but also ideologically. The ICC indictments should be put on hold. The Acholi religious Leaders’ Peace Initiative should present and emphasize to the government the view of the majority in the affected local community about giving local judicial systems such the Mato Oput, Gomo Tong among others that promote traditional ways of coping a chance. The withdrawal of the ICC indictments should be at the forefront of any dialogue between warring parties given the fact that ARLPI should devise strategies to sustain their vision for peace and end the power and economic games that hinder the combined effort of many Civil Society Organisations and stakeholders to achieve their set mission and objectives. The researcher undertook the study wondering why peace building was elusive, searching for quick solutions, but later learned that conflict was complex, expensive and peace building required patience and dedication due to the numerous hitches and corners there’re in the entire peace building process.