Northern Uganda has been an arena for armed conflict for 22 years; over a million people have been living camps as internal refugees for over a generation. Recently great strides have been made towards peace. However, decades of neglect make resettlement a fraught process for individuals, families and communities. Gulu University was established by the Ugandan government in 2002 as part of a strategy for peace and sustainable development in the North. The university offers advanced education in the region and is committed to community service through education and research. As noted in the Visitation Report by the committee that recently evaluated all Ugandan institutions of higher learning, Gulu University is committed to an interdisciplinary approach to development issues, drawing on ‘the best elements from interrelated and complementary disciplines’ (2007:25). This project advances knowledge on human security by enhancing both research capacity and interdisciplinary cooperation at GU. It will collaborate with five faculties - Agriculture & Environment, Business & Development Studies; Medicine; Science Education, Science - as well as the Institute for Peace & Strategic Studies. At a time when needs are great and resources scarce Gulu University's strategy for research enhancement stresses training but also collaboration. Our project focus on human security complements this strategy. Training in the disciplinary fields and faculties will be combined with specially developed courses and research exercises in order to develop the interdisciplinary skills and experience. The project’s first phase will last four years. This phase concentrates on three principal components: 1) upgrading university staff qualifications by supporting them to undertake PhD and MA/MSc programmes; 2) enhancing post-graduate research training through planning and co-teaching in Masters programmes and cross-disciplinary, collaborative courses on research methodology, and; 3) designing and initiating collaborative research, of which a central pillar will be a Demographic Surveillance System (DSS) that will trace the resettlement process in detail and will serve as a continuing central context for disciplinary and collaborative research.
Project Completion Report:
The project has enhanced research capacity at Gulu University significantly. Research included issues of post-IDP camp security, post-conflict demography and heaith issues, social cohesion and forgiveness, and land conflicts.
New insights on human security dynamics after internal displacement include that:
- After leaving the camps, IDPs experience a post-resettlement dip in heaith status because they have less access to treatment. The longer-term effects of internal displacement on heaith and mental heaith require follow-up.
- Former IDPs are food insecure and trends include acute malnutrition among children below 5 years of age
- Unmarried women, widows and landless young men are vulnerable and more likely to remain behind.
- Urbanization of former camps is insensitive to the cultural need to rebury the dead in home villages.
- Small scale land conflicts between individuals, families, elans, business people, district and national authorities are a threat to human security.
- Where access to land and land rights are insecure, willingness to invest resources is affected.
- The importance of local level forgiveness for the re-weaving the social fabric of everyday life was emphasized over 'trial justice' and traditional justice.
At community level a forgiveness voice installation was set up and a copy was handed over to Uganda Museum.