Strategies of (in)coherent lives. Youth between security and development in Uganda


Start date: 31 December, 2010 End date: 2 April, 2015 Project type: Smaller projects: PhD Project code: 10-076DIIS Countries: Uganda Thematic areas: State building, governance and civil society, Lead institution: University of Copenhagen (UCPH), Denmark Partner institutions: Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS), Denmark Gulu University (GU), Uganda Policy Brief: Website of affiliated project in Uganda Project coordinator: Marianne Bach Mosebo Total grant: 2,630,239 DKK Project files:

Project summary

The project focuses on how urban youth form and act out livelihood strategies in the fragile region of Karamoja in Uganda. Uganda is internationally considered a stable state, however Karamoja has a status as a "special" region due to its immense poverty and insecurity. The Karimojong are considered by many Ugandans as brutal, primitive or even beyond development, mainly due to the effects of their pastoral lifestyle, including practices of cattle rustling. The state policies of intervention in the area have primarily focused on securing security and "pacifying" the Karimojong. In 2008, the Ugandan state launched a policy promising coherence on issues of security and development. The project will investigate how state interventions affect urban youth in Karamoja who do not lead pastoral lives, and the possibilities these leave for the youth to develop livelihood strategies. Urban youth are interesting subjects in regards to security and development policies. They are potential resources in and mediators for development, as their ambitions lie within employment and education, however, if they perceive the state interventions as malevolent rather than benevolent, they may also become security risks. Therefore, the project will look into how the state "message" is put forward and how interventions are carried out and perceived. The project will involve ethnographic fieldwork using qualitative methods amongst the urban youth. Furthermore, the researcher will interview state representatives to gain insights into the rationale of interventions.


Completion Report - Summary:

Karamoja region in the Northeastern part of Uganda is no longer as fragile a region as it used to be. The general security situation has improved after decades of more or less succesfull disarmament procedures. In Moroto Town, the regional headquarters of Karamoja, where the fieldwork was conducted for this PhD thesis, they had experienced a situation of safety from violence for years. The improved security situation increased the options for pursuing different livelihood strategies. The young urban Karimojong men whom were the focus for the thesis appreciated this and worked hard to ensure its continuity. They generally lived a life outside of pastoralism doing alternative livelihoods, which aligned well with the government’s largely anti-pastoral policies and rhetoric. The 3 of 11 youths portrayed themselves as change agents in connection to their rural kinsmen. However, life was still diffifult and fraught with uncertainty and lack of opportunities. The youth expressed their discontent with the government in this regards by referring to the region’s isolation and marginalisation in the nation. The thesis describes two government programmes that sought to benefit the conditions in town: One was the building of a proper road and one was a poverty-reduction programme where several beneficiaries received four goats each. Both these efforts however ended up being problematic for the people. The road building ended up further marginalising the people and created resentment towards the local government. The goats became a security risk, because they were the target of thieves, and goats herding went against the livelihood strategies that the youth wanted to engage in.
The youth thus saw themselves as change agents towards the government discourses and policies, but such programmes enabled critiques of and resentment towards the very same government. My argument is that the improved security situation opened up space for the urbanites to focus towards an enhancement of their well-being, but also space for critical citizenship where the government were subjected to increasing demands.

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