The transformation of Karamoja: Sedentarization of pastoralists
Muhereza, Emmanuel Frank
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This dissertation seeks to explain why interventions by the National Resistance Movement (NRM) government in Karamoja aimed at sedentarization of pastoralists and adoption of settled crop farming and large scale commercial livestock ranching are unlikely to have the intended effect of delivering Karamoja from its unending vulnerability to annual food shortages and halting the rising incidence of absolute poverty among the majority of ordinary Karamojong. Instead, these interventions have facilitated the extension, entrenchment, and consolidation of political control over Karamoja. This has laid the foundation for an unbridled exploitation of Karamoja’s natural and other resources. As an entry point, I undertake an analysis of the epistemological and theoretical foundations of development pathways preferred by different governments since the colonial period to identify their ruptures and continuities. In discussing the various ways different forms of state violence have played a critical role in re-ordering Karamojong society, I analyze how Karamojong cattle have been instrumentalized by all governments in Uganda that have all sought the sedentarization of the Karamojong, and why it is the colonial state and the NRM that were the most far-reaching, and the implications of the trajectories of development that ensued from this instrumentalization. I argue that unlike the colonial state whose preoccupation with the commodification of Karamojong cattle to generate revenues undermined attempts to resolve the contradictions between native administration and traditional authority structures, and instead led to the blossoming of the tribal war organization which successfully resisted colonial political control, the NRM, aimed at dispossessing the Karamojong of their cattle. This led to the dismantling of the Karamojong tribal war machine and cooptation of traditional authority structures ending Karamojong resistance to political control. This enabled the return to Karamoja of the ‘absent state of Uganda’. None of the post-colonial past governments achieved what the NRM did. The dissertation challenges the underlying logic of seemingly neutral development programs that use poverty as their entry point but end up re-engineering the Karamojong society in ways that make the development programs levers for the enactment of state power, while having very limited effect on poverty. It calls for a shift to a political analysis that sees ‘development’ as a ‘colonization project’ of governments, one that is indeed a ‘political project’. Such a shift calls on us to acknowledge the Karamojong as a part of the people of Uganda with rights of citizens, including the right to participate in shaping their ways of life and use of natural resources, to change it in meaningful ways.