Effect of insurgency on the local people
The effect of the LRA insurgency on the local people, as it was on the State, is well articulated in literature. For instance, the work of Omona (2015) on “Management of postcolonial intrastate conflicts in Uganda: A case of Northern Uganda” and GSCOPNU’s (2006) compilation entitled, “Counting the cost: Twenty years of war in northern Uganda,” provide insightful data on the subject matter. The key issues identified are internal displacement, high mortality rate, abduction, degeneration of education, lack of access to humanitarian services and the cost of the conflict in terms of the socio-economic is revealed as the major effects of the LRA insurgency to the local population in northern Uganda.
While explaining the senseless killings during the insurgency, Ochola-Onono & Oryem (2000: 1) assert that the series of conflicts left so many people orphaned and destitute with no one to take care of them. Indeed, during the LRA insurgency, a lot of people have lost their loved ones. Unfortunately, some of those who died left young children and elderly people without anyone to provide them with the care they need. Apart from those who were killed during the insurgency, some people died of HIV and AIDS, a situation which Olara Otunnu in a Documentary entitled “LRA conflict” (Stanton, n.d) asserts were used by the NRA government as an instrument of violence during the twenty-one years of insurgency in northern Uganda. Although some of the orphans were taken care of by their relatives, the fact that those who took up the orphans were themselves equally needy, they were not able to meet all the social, educational and physical needs of the orphans. In a way, this further increased the misery of the people of northern Uganda after going through a period of suffering.
The insurgency in Northern Uganda has affected the civilian population. Women and children endured most of the conflict, especially after the death of some men. Thus, leading to the feminisation of poverty since women became the sole providers for the family. Yet women are not as mobile as men, and they do not have ready access to credit facilities and communal resources to engage in self-help endeavours and business ventures. As for children, their conscription into the rebel and government militia ranks imposed a special burden on them. This made them be denied the opportunity to go to school and receive care from their families (Pham et ah, 2007). Those who were afraid to join these forces stayed at home or ended up on the streets. Even if some of the children joined the forces willingly or by force, the final analysis is that their physical and mental developments have been impaired, thus immersing them into the culture of violence.
In Northern Uganda in particular, many people went into exile or got displaced within the country. Just like during the 1070s when many people ran to Tanzania and Kenya and in the 1980s some people went to the Sudan and Zaire now DRC, the LRA insurgency sent others beyond the mentioned countries. While in exile, some of the people lived in squalid conditions. Feeding, sanitation, educational facilities, and social sendees in their places of refuge were extremely poor. To make matters even worse, in the 1990s to mid-2000s, those who could not go to exile were forced into IDP camps that were created across Northern and Eastern Uganda. In a documentary entitled “the LRA conflict,” Olara Otunnu argued that when a similar situation started to happen in Burundi around the same time, the International Community forced the Burundi government to disband the IDP camps (Stanton, n.d). They conditioned the Burundi government to let the people go back into their villages. Unfortunately, the same International Community kept quiet when this was happening in northern Uganda. Since the silence of the international community on the plight ot the people of northern Uganda made them be exposed to untold suffering; some section of the people of northern Uganda lost hope in the international system (HURIPEC, & L1G1, (2003). While in these IDP camps people tested homelessness, abject poverty and accompanying war distress. This was because they could not meet their basic needs since the crops and farmlands, they depended on were destroyed. The cramming of people into IDP camps without enough sanitary facility led to the outbreak of preventable diseases that killed many people.
The inhuman treatment that was unleashed on the people ot Northern Uganda during the periods of LRA insurgency left bitter memories in the minds ot the local population. Common among such inhuman treatment was: the rape of women and girls in the presence of their husbands, parents, brothers and children, having sexual relations with men —sodomy in the presence of their family (HURIPEC, & LIGI, 2003). Furthermore, some UPDF defecated in the water pots or food staffs of these powerless people as the LRA concentrated on cutting oft body parts like lips, nose, breasts, ears, and anns; and the wounds left after injury. While recounting such a daunting experience in Pader district, Omona asserts:
A certain man, whose dog tried to bark when the LRA were entering his compound, was forced to tie the dog on his back like a child. Then one of the rebels got firewood that had fire on it and started to burn the anus of the dog. Since it was tied on the owners back, the dog thought its owner was the one inflicting this pain on itself. In its desperate attempt to escape, the dog started biting its owner several times at the back ot his head, thus leaving him with multiple wounds on his head (Omona, 2015: 255).
Such sufferings made people look forward to an opportune moment to revenge on the criminals. The conflict also destroyed societal social fabric and coping mechanism. Since civilians were direct targets of both the rebels and government forces, people disperse in different directions for their security. In the process, some of the key cultural value the support provided by the wider family and kinship system were destroyed. Consequently, this exacerbated division between groups and increased intra-group insecurity and hostility. It also acted to disrupt intergroup economic relations (RLP, 2013).
In a way of adding insult to injury, when people were displaced by conflicts, men lost their traditional position of being the breadwinners at home. While in the IDP camps, it was the women who were receiving relief food and other properties. This provision by the UN to families made family respect to cease and everybody started behaving contrary to family norms. After the UN had stopped providing food rations to families, some women resorted to befriending soldiers so as to survive. This exposed them to sexually transmitted diseases like Human Immune Deficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). Since men became powerless, the majority resorted to bettering their wives in their attempt to assert their position as men. As a result, a lot of families broke during the time in the camps. In some cases, some ot these families have not been able to come together up to today. During the IDP camp life, some families were forced to share small huts with all the members of their household for fear of risking the girl child’s life. Through such, children got exposed to sexual practice early in life since some of the parents could not wait but start having sex before the children were asleep.
The LRA insurgency further reduced people ot Northern Uganda into abject poverty, especially after losing their livelihood. Quoting from Uganda Bureau of Standard and UNDP’s statistics, Robert Senath Esuruku has this to say about the poverty levels in northern Uganda:
While the national average of Ugandans living in absolute poverty declined from 38.8% in 2002/03 to 31.1% in 2005/6 and to 24.53% in 2009/10, poverty in northern Uganda increased from 2.9 million in 2002/03 to 3.3 million in 2005/ 06 and decreased to 2.9 million in 2009/10. Despite the overall significant reduction in poverty, the northern Uganda regions remained poorer than other regions.. .The human development indices (HDls) and human poverty indices (HPls) demonstrate that Northern Uganda is lagging behind the rest of the country in regional and district specific breakdowns. (Esuruku, 2012: 149-151).
The assertion ot Esuruku (2012) is spot on. Given the gruesome LRA conflict, while the national income per capita is estimated at Uganda shillings (UGX) 570,000 in 2012 few years after the end of the insurgency, the figure for the Northern region stands at a paltry UGX 153,000, which is about 27% of the national average. Putting this in context, Esuruku (2012: 149—151) further argues:
Although at national level income poverty fell from 56% in 1992 to 31.1% in 2006 and 24.5 in 2009/10, 46.2% of the residents in the northern region have remained. Although the mean consumption expenditure per adult equivalent has increased from UGX 55,092 in 2006 to 62,545 in 2009/10, the expenditure in the north has remained at UGX 38,988.
The state of the poverty level in Northern Uganda, highlighted by Esuruku (2012) has made most people hailing from those ends to think the insurgency was a deliberate ploy by the government to crush their spirit. Due to such level of poverty, many people from northern Uganda have failed to support their families. Instead, some became dependent on food rations from the World Food Programme to the extent that they want to be supported even after the end of the LRA insurgency.
Since people got used to being provided for, some have failed to adjust to the life of hardworking and fending for themselves. The situation is even worse among those who were born in the 1DP camps. The dependency syndrome that developed among the local people made several youths to resort to stealing or roaming around in trading centres without any gainful employment. The insurgency has also affected harmonious living in the villages due to land wrangles with relatives. In Gulu, for example, “land crisis led to the burning of a lady with her two daughters in their house near Gulu High School” (Omona, 2015: 259) and also in Lira, a man confessed having killed 12 people from the same family due to land conflicts. The trauma such incidences caused has made some people go mad thus forcing them to kill their own parents, children, or relatives.
According to Wade Snow (2009: 1), the resulting violent conflicts have contributed to the lowest return rate of the fonner IPDs to their ancestral land in Gulu as compared to other war- affected districts. This is because people fear getting involved in bitter conflicts over land, a usual form of conflict during the post LILA insurgency. In regard to the female fraternity, the effects of the conflict have been: physical/sexual abuse, psychological trauma, the pressure to restore traditional norms, dislocation, additional responsibilities, and often the head ot households, low education and discrimination. Those who could not bear such burden have since become helpless.
The destruction of properties and infrastructure of Northern Uganda like roads made Chris Dolan, at a conference presentation on 21 November 2011 to assert “the people of Northern Uganda were exposed to structural violence, an event that one lives to remember for the rest of his/her life.” The memories of such bad roads come to mind vividly because people have lost many lives on it. For example, during the 1990s, a lot ot people died on the roads in northern Uganda. This has made the people who are still alive to regard the roads in northern Uganda as “the road that kills”. The insurgency further led to the creation of income disparity between the people in northern Uganda and other parts of Uganda due to loss ot source ot income thus subjecting them to abject poverty and starvation. The school drop-out rate during IDP life also shot up. This led to an increase in crime rate in the IDP camps thus making people develop the spirit of violence as a defence mechanism. Consequently, this led to a high prevalence rate of sexual and gender-based violence - which in some instances led to murders of spouses.
The politicisation of the LRA insurgency led to the negative identity of the Acholi by their neighbours. For example, the Acholi were collectively branded as rebels even by their neighbours the Lango and Madi. Such generalisation ot a community through stereotype is what brings failing to look at people as individuals but as a community which is not fair. The negative identity attributed to the Acholi made, on 25 May 2003 a peaceful march in Lira town, in protest against the Barlonyo massacre to translate into anti-Acholi sentiments leading to the killing ot five people. The killing of the five people made some Acholi youths in Gulu to retaliate on the Langi. Around the same time in Teso, a Member of Parliament urged his people to kill all Acholi who were 18 years old (HUK1PEC, & L1GS, 2003). Then in Adjumani District, some people celebrated the death of innocent abductees who were mowed by a UPDF helicopter gunship. Yet not all the Acholi supported the rebellion.
The protracted armed conflict resulted in many people suffering from post-traumatic disorders in northern Uganda. As such, Omona (2009), quoting a respondent who preferred anonymity said: “there are more lunatics in northern Uganda today than before due to their experience during the active phase of the LRA rebellion”. After the cessation of hostility, the youths who were targeted for abduction and conscription into the rebel and government militia forces failed to have productive lives on returning home. The attempt by some of these youth to become productive made them resort to early marriages. This was especially true among the girls among whom the highest incidence of this was reported. Some of these girls got married at the tender age ot thirteen years and others were impregnated at twelve years old- thus creating a scenario where a child takes care of another child or other children.
Besides the above effect, issues like famine, destruction of properties and social amenities like schools, health centres, and roads, retardation of development, and increase in illiteracy amongst the local people were reported. Furthermore, jealousy by some section of the community towards those who they regard to be better oft was also reported. Such negative feeling amongst local people further works to complicate harmonious post-conflict resettlement in northern Uganda.