Non-Governmental Organizations, The Two-Edged Sword for Peace and Development: The Case of Karamoja Region
Author: Wyclife Ong’eta, and Salome Nyambura
Translated into Spanish by Sylvia Cespedes
Over the past 100 years relatively more NGOs have tended to operate in fields that are also of great concern to national governments, for example, economics, finance, commerce, peace, industry, and technology (Skjelsbaek, 1971). NGOs aid has been frequently portrayed as a form of altruism, a charitable act that enables wealth to flow from rich to poor, poverty to be reduced and the poor to be empowered (Manji and O’Coill, 2002). Western governments have increasingly become wary of using traditional military and diplomatic modes of intervening in conflict-affected areas that are perceived as non-threatening to their strategic interests. Instead, states have turned increasingly to NGOs and other agencies to take up the challenge (Rigby, 2001).
NGOs, however, are facing a stark choice today than ever. If they stand in favour of the emancipation of humankind, then the focus of their work has inevitably to be in the political domain, supporting those social movements that seek to challenge a social system that benefits a few and impoverishes the many (Manji and O’Coill, 2002). If they stand neutral, efforts to emancipate the impoverished and to consolidate peace in war-torn regions would remain jeopardized. For many NGOs development is about citizenship only, while for many official donor agencies and government ministries development is only about the state. The former elevates active citizenship to be synonymous with progress, while the latter reduce it to periodic elections and ‘consultation’ by government (Duncan, 2012). According to Kelly (2014) there has been exponential growth of NGOs in development theory and practice, alongside the growing recognition of the importance of civil society in global and local development. However, Manji and O’Coill (2002) say that their contributions have been marginally to the relief of poverty, but significantly to undermining the struggle of the poor in particular of pastoralists people to emancipate themselves from economic, social, and political oppression.
In Morton (2010) work, it has been demonstrated that the most important constraints to poverty reduction, conflict transformation, and livelihood improvement among pastoralists lie in the spheres of policy and governance. Despite rapidly improving understandings of pastoralism among researchers, NGOs and to some extent donors, African governments appear to persist in inappropriate policy and inequitable governance. In other words, Levine (2010) observes development policy over half a century shared by the succession of regimes and NGOs alike has been to ‘help’ the pastoralists settle down and take up crop farming as a main livelihood. That the only areas where such a livelihood is at all possible were an integral and functional part of a managed, pastoral livelihood-ecosystem was either not recognized or not given adequate consideration. Thus, the so-called ‘developing world’ and its inhabitants have continually been described only in terms of what they are not. They are chaotic not ordered, traditional not modern, corrupt not honest, under- developed not developed, irrational not rational, lacking in all of those things the West presumes itself to be (Manji and O’Coill, 2002). This in a way has profoundly undermined pastoralism as a viable economic activity, instead sustained unrelenting conflicts and underdevelopment seen in Karamoja region.
This work applies two-prong approaches while exploring the roles NGOs have played in Karamoja region in causing peace and development. It has to be noted that, this region was left behind in terms of development for decades. Violent conflict and miseries have been the daily experiences of Karamoja people. With the intervention of NGOs and governments in Karamoja region, today life of Karimojongs is bearable. Some of the interventions provided by NGOs have caused peace while others have fed conflicts. These are the issues the authors have cross-examined. We have started by providing a brief context of Karamoja region. In the other segments, section one presents two NGO models; sustainability and academic models to illuminate on the subject matter. Section two focuses on NGOs and growth of prosperity. Today it is increasingly clear that NGOs are going beyond short-term life-saving intervention. Ideally, they are becoming drivers of evolution thinking in development and social revolution. Section three focuses on NGOs and peace while section four tackles NGOs and conflicts. It is argued that failure of NGOs to address structural dynamics change has become the source of conflicts in Karamoja region. This work provides the case of Karamoja Cluster Project (KCP). This work provides the case of Karamoja Cluster Project (KCP). This was a three-year cross-border peace project that sought to mitigate pastoral violence within the Karamoja Cluster of Kenya and Uganda. The project was initiated by the University for Peace (UPEACE) under its Africa Programme in partnership with the three implementing institutions: the Uganda Martyrs University; the Children Peace Initiative of Kenya; and the University of the Western Cape, South Africa.
The Conflict Context of Karamoja Region
The Karamoja Cluster is located in the remote low-lying border areas of Northwest Kenya, Northeast Uganda, Southeast Sudan, Southern Somalia, and Southwest Ethiopia peopled by pastoral communities. Much of the cluster is characterized by harsh arid to semiarid conditions receiving 300 mm or less rainfall per annum. Precipitation is seasonal but highly variable in volume, distribution and timing (Grahn, 2005). To survive in this unpredictable habitat, the Karimojong people have adopted a pastoral lifestyle. They keep livestock and derive a significant part of their nutritional needs from the milk and blood of the animals. Nonetheless, considering pastoralism has proved more reliable than agriculture in this inhospitable climate, it is still susceptible to threats weakening its sustainability (Jabs, 2007).
Unequivocally, the cluster has been experiencing unending pastoral conflicts, inadequate access to essential services, including health care, and education, poor or nonexistent infrastructure, lack of access to clean water and sanitation, poor or nonexistent roads (Kelly, 2014). Of note, Krätli (2010) says Karamoja is seen as a development challenge wondering: is it rather the legacy of a system-blind approach embedded in development infrastructure, institutions and expertise, and still locked onto technical targets, defined in abstract, and disconnected from the existing production systems? Even so, to uplift the lives of karamoja people, Lind (2006) comments that conflict reduction and peace building activities have become an important focus of governments, NGOs, aid and donor agency efforts.
Nongovernmental Organizations Model
This article has been informed by two models: Sustainability model and NGO Academy Model.
There is a growing recognition of the importance of organisational sustainability in achieving strategic goals. New methodologies are being developed to identify and assess the organisational characteristics of effective and sustainable NGOs. Commonly, these are based on an assessment of core attributes such as leadership capabilities and management competencies, the capacity to deliver specific services or the ability to pay salaries and cover running costs (Hailey, 2014). These include according to the author analysis of an NGO’s ability to anticipate and handle change; in particular adapting to changes in the external environment and the consequences of such changes on their income as well as aging or outdated systems and processes. In MANGO analysis, the paths to achieve sustainability include: Developing and maintaining strong stakeholder relationships, including beneficiaries, staff and donors; obtaining a range of types of funding, including unrestricted funds; building financial reserves; assessing and managing risks; and strategically managing and financing overhead costs (MANGO, 2002). Moreover, Olga Skarlato, Sean Byrne, Peter Karari and Kawser Ahmed (2012) have suggested a number of initiatives that can contribute to the sustainability of peacebuilding and reconciliation efforts, including (1) investing in training and capacity building, (2) education and empowerment, (3) building partnerships that connect several peacebuilding projects, and (4) enabling people to work together. To give an example, KCP worked with stakeholders in national and county governments, peace NGOs, and beneficiaries in order to achieve its lofty objectives. To vouch for project sustainability, women, men, and youth were empowered with resources mobilization techniques, how to shepherd peace through sports and cultural festivals, how to establish support networks, scholarships were given Karamoja children and so on.
NGO Academy Model
Dancan (2016) has proposed two alternative ways of conceptualising interaction between academics and NGOs to influence policy. This more conservative model relies on a boundary organisation or knowledge intermediary who sits between the two worlds of science and policy, each of which retains its integrity and stability. The model involves co-production of knowledge through the merging of these two realms in ways which interfere with conventional research practices and roles of researchers, such that science goes beyond providing information and becomes involved in the process of governance itself. Dancan further notes that NGOs and think tanks are the nodes connected to one another through a relatively small number of individuals described as interlockers who act as bridges between these organisations. Oppenheimer (2006) adds that NGOs’ culture, like most of the culture of science, insists on transparency; provide balance in the transformation of scientific information into policy; that is, the framing of scientific questions and findings as policy issues; and NGOs help initiate policy examination of new problems, and even sometimes initially identify questions as proper scientific and policy concerns. They have shown an ability to convert a scientific question into a policy issue with great effectiveness. Unlike the other NGOs in Karamoja cluster, KCP being a university led project serving the communities’ needs of peace. The project was able to undertake robust research that informed strategies or policies that sought to sustain peace in the cluster.
Dancan (2016), however, notes that people and small businesses outside universities find them impenetrable institutions. A member of the public or a community or voluntary organisation seeking a relevant point of contact in a university to discuss their research-related query, often encounters a huge, incomprehensible organisation whose website is structured according to supply-side logic (faculties, departments, degree programmes) rather than according to demand considerations or user needs in the one hand. On the other, Oppenheimer (2006) argues that many NGOs simply do not recognize the need for scientific skill. Building intellectual infrastructure always takes a back seat to fighting today’s fights. He furthers argues that NGOs academy link is not a guarantee of effective and efficient policy based on science will emerge from the policy process. Nor is it a guarantee that the policy process itself will be sensible, fair, and effective.
NGOs and Growth of Prosperity
Skjelsbaek (1971) notes the NGO world is growing and changing in many ways. New organizations are added and old ones disappear. New countries become represented and others see their relative share of influence reduced. New functions are performed, new procedures adopted, and more channels of information established. Internal structures of organizations are reformed. These changes have affected the importance of NGOs in the world. Traditionally, humanitarian aid was oriented to short-term, life-saving interventions with a clearly-defined exit strategy. Intervening across state borders was justified on the basis of human need: the aim was the relief of suffering, whether caused by natural calamities or by war (Rigby, 2001). Today, there is a move from direct program implementation by NGOs to much higher levels of “partnership” arrangements where the implementer is a local NGO, or CSO is based on an evolution of development thinking that prioritizes local ownership, community participation, social liberation as well as efficiencies and effectiveness (Kelly, 2014).
In Duncan (2012) writing, many NGOs see themselves as ‘change agents’. Often their work is painstaking and almost invisible, supporting poor people as they organise to demand their rights, pushing the authorities for grassroots improvements such as street lighting, paved roads, schools, or clinics, or providing such services themselves, along with public education programmes on everything from hand washing to labour rights. The author further observes that an active and progressive NGOs can be profoundly transformatory, enhancing the lives of both participants and society as a whole, empowering poor people to demand change and to hold their rulers accountable.
Unequivocally, NGOs have immensely helped to facilitate achievements in basic human development as measured by the United Nations Human Development Index (HDI). They have also been on the front line in the fight for human rights, equality, freedom, and social justice (Government of Kenya report, 2014-2017). The report further proffers that the major advantages of NGOs include their flexibility, ability to innovate, grass-roots orientation, humanitarian vs. commercial goal orientation, non-profit status, dedication and commitment, and recruitment philosophy. However, caught in the torrent of upheavals that characterized the victory over colonialism, it is easy for the NGOs, in particular, western NGOs to become romantic and blinkered by their own enthusiasm for ‘bringing development to the people’ in the newly independent countries. But the real problem is that the dominant discourse of development was framed not in the language of emancipation or justice, but with the vocabulary of charity, technical expertise, neutrality, and a deep paternalism was its syntax (Manji and O’Coill, 2002).
Kelly (2014) writes that there are different perspectives on the role of non-profits. At one level they can provide services that are not readily available, through other sources. A second potential form is in providing a collective voice for a broader accountability agenda, through advocacy and other channels. Brass (2010) reiterates that NGOs extend the service arm of the state to places and locations for which government counterparts lack sufficient funds; they also provide indirect services that the government is not able to provide, particularly in relation to HIV/AIDS programs, but also in many other service sectors. The author adds that NGOs work collaboratively with government on programs neither could do alone, and they generally use their funds expediently and cost‐effectively. It can be said that NGOs are and would continue to be a significant segment of drivers propelling growth among the conflict-torn communities and emerging economies at large. Thus, it is widely acknowledged, where efforts to grow people’s prosperity have succeeded; the possibility of recurrence of violent conflict or war has remained slim. In the next sections, we shall discuss how peace NGOs could wage for enduring peace or unconsciously or consciously weaken the social structures, thus, creating favourable conditions for conflicts or relapse of war.
NGOs and Peace
In recent years, there has grown up a host of NGOs more specifically concerned with the management and resolution of conflict around the world, which can be characterized as conflict transformation agencies (Rigby, 2001). Most of these NGOs have realized the need to build capacities in people as a way of mitigating conflicts. As Kona (2004) comments, building capacities for peace hold more sway in nurturing sustainable peace and peaceful co-existence between communities. Most of these have been successfully carried out targeting the grassroots, meso-level managers, and even senior civil servants. This is not exclusive of KCP, the project through its women empowerment program organized trainings in Kenya and Uganda at all levels to empower women and youth on different thematic areas such as gender and peacebuilding, gender analysis of conflict and violence, skills for women in peacebuilding and challenges for women in peacebuilding, resource mobilization techniques, sports, peace, and development, and so on.
Whereas researching in Karamoja, Kona (2004) highlighted the organizations that have taken a leading role in building peace and development, this include but not limited to: World Vision-Kenya (MAPOTU and POKATUSA Projects), African Peace Agenda (APA), ISGM/PACT-Mwengo and the Oxfam-GB/Government of Kenya supported Riam-Riam Turkana, Action Aid, Catholic Peace and Justice, National council of churches of Kenya (NCCK), Handicap International, Tegla Lourupe Peace Foundation (TLPF), Transparency International, Acted, Action against Hunger, Marcy Corp, Food and agriculture Organization (FAO), USAID, and so on. The efforts of these peace initiatives have yielded to grassroots-driven and community-owned peace and development initiatives. Moreover, Danish Demining Group (DDG) working in Kenya and Uganda has enhanced safety spaces through community conflict management education, and police trainings to efficiently manage security matters; held regular community meetings sharing on best practices to manage security; and sensitized communities on small arms and light weapons (Danish Demining Group (DDG), 2015). Equally, KCP provided training for community leaders in conflict resolution and peacebuilding. The aim of these trainings was to empower the community to develop skills in community conflict resolution and peacebuilding. The trainings happened in Kapenguria, Trans-nzoia, West Pokot, Lodwar in Kenya; Naturongole Nakonyen, Tapac Sub County, Moroto district in Uganda.
In Kipuri and Ridgewell (2008) outstanding work, they have demonstrated the prominent role NGOs have played in advancing peace and development in Karamoja. In education, the authors gave an illustration of Yang’at initiative which has addressed issues affecting pastoralist girls as well as targeting their efforts towards water, health and education, which were seen as key factors in determining the well-being of girls. And the Alternative Basic Education Programme for Karamoja (ABEK) that was established in 1998 by the government of Uganda and Save the Children has disarmed illiteracy among the pastoral people. ABEK had established 268 learning centres, which had hosted 42,250 learners, 1,427 of whom had gone on to formal education. Similarly, TLPF has build capacities through establishment of educational infrastructure and provision of sports facilities to train athletes in Kenya and Uganda region of Karamoja as a strategy to mitigate pastoral conflicts (Kidombo, 2013). As we mentioned above, KCP too offered masters scholarships for Karamoja people in Kenya and Uganda to study in area of peace and conflict resolution as a way to build capacities to sustain peace in the region.
In community development, Kipuri and Ridgewell (2008) recognized the work of the Karamoja Agro- Pastoral Development Programme (KADP) in Uganda. Established as an independent organization in 2003, KADP works in Moroto and Nakapiripirit districts of Karamoja region through associations of community animal health workers (CAHW), women’s goat groups, youth associations for young women and men, and councils of elders in building peace among the war-torn pastoral communities. In Ethiopia, the authors have noted that Afar Pastoral Development Association (APDA) has been providing social services since the mid-1990s in one of the most marginalized areas of the country.
According to Lind (2006), the development of impoverished Karamoja region has been path dependent and is rooted in colonial perceptions of the insignificant value of what were considered to be ‘low potential’ dryland areas as well as a belief that customary pastoralism was an outdated form of production. This paradigmatic view of pastoralism and inherent development bias in favour of ‘high potential’ farming areas persists up to now, observed in the inequitable distribution of public funds and government services to the disadvantage of pastoralist areas. The consequence of this has been to enhance survival under such inhospitable reality, cattle rustling practices and other violent cultural practices such as sapana have remained the order of the day. As such, Berger (2003) points a multitude of NGOs have streamed in this region to wage for peace and development applying myriad strategies. One, building elders’ capacity to tackling conflicts within their own community over resource use as a strategy for reducing the impact of scarcity, which will assist in resolving inter-tribal conflicts; two, improvement of resource management to make existing natural capital more productive. Three, NGOs have adapted rules to cope with nomadism, address the added complexities of partial settlement and shared control of resources. Four, promoting activities that could enhance social interaction, and social cohesion, to give an example KCP facilitated events such as sports for peace, cultural festivals, peace meetings, vigils, enlightening tours, and so forth. These have largely narrowed widely mistrust, animosity as the values of peace, and diversity were fostered and celebrated.
In Trends in Development Aid, Negotiation Processes and NGO Policy Change, Johansson, Ole Elgstro, Kimanzu, Nylund and Persson (2010) pointed out that in Pokot, ViS a central peace stakeholder has implemented a number of important changes that have paved the way for positive reform. Notably, the organization has taken centre stage in mitigating the impacts of climate change through reforestation programmes as away to combat resource-based conflicts. The practical implication of ViS’s commitment has not been only that seedlings had to be raised in nurseries and planted, but that all seedlings/trees paid for had to survive and mature to form a connected barrier against the expanding desert. As it has been discussed above, Karamoja region experiences arid and semi-arid climatic conditions which in some way relates with pastoral conflicts. Thus, ViS’s work has been most essential in combating pastoral conflicts as well as it has advanced sustainable development of the region.
NGOs and Conflicts
In Karamoja, to try to make sense of it, many researchers rely on omnicausal explanations which suggest that a multitude of deep seated factors, such as poverty, resource scarcity, and small arms proliferation, are responsible for the violence (Eaton, 2008). Thus, the author notes donors have reaffirmed this belief by encouraging peace groups to address these issues at the expense of more grassroots concerns. Peace groups are usually formed with the best of intentions, and generally make sincere efforts either to end or to limit the impact of the violence, but few make much progress. The perceived squandering of the relatively vast resources committed to making peace has created cynicism among both the inhabitants of the region and the workers themselves. Put in another way, Manji and O’Coill (2002) reiterates that NGOs have become an integral, and necessary, part of a system that sacrifices respect for justice and rights. They have taken the ‘missionary position’-service delivery, running projects that are motivated by charity, pity and doing things for people with the verbiage of participatory approaches.
In Supporting Pastoralist Livelihoods in Eastern Africa through Peace Building, Lind (2006) hints that the problem has been understanding pastoral conflict involving livestock keeping societies as competition for scarce resources. This suggests that local level harmonization initiatives can make a significant contribution to reducing conflict. Thus, Lind notes NGOs’ ‘local’ peace building approach that focuses on the manifestations of chronic instability but does not address the underlying structural dynamics that frame the long existence of armed violence. These include the historical underdevelopment and marginalization of pastoralist areas, thus, the longer-term effectiveness of localized peace building approaches in pastoralist areas hinge on complementary efforts to address structural inequality and underdevelopment. In addition, Rigby (2001) comments that the most serious challenges faced by NGOs has come about through the realization that many of the parties to protracted conflicts have a vested interest in their continuation. There is a growing body of evidence to indicate that ‘greed’ rather than ‘grievance’ has become the driving force behind the perpetuation and renewal of many seemingly intractable conflicts, with contemporary war characterized as the pursuance of economics by other means. This has increasingly expanded complexity of peace process, thus, rendering pastoral conflicts stubbornly unending.
In this article, we have seen that a wide array of NGOs that have had incredible blue print likely to restore peace and achieve peoples’ prosperity. Nonetheless, these organizations have lacked adequate capacity to implement their strategic directive. In Eaton (2008), TLPF doing peace work in Kenya, Uganda, and Sudan is an excellent example of this widespread problem. The organization host running races in conflict zones with large cash prizes for the top runners among the ‘warriors’. The peace races are well attended, not only by locals but also by dignitaries, MPs, world-class athletes and International Association of Athletics Federations (LAAF) officials, however, the number of ex-raiders is assisted by the organization on a long-term basis is extremely small. Eaton provided another example of POKATUSA serving Pokot, Karimojong, Turkana, and Sabiny in Kenya and Uganda, the organization received considerable funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), UK Department for International Development (DfID) until 2004 when it collapsed owing to financial problems, poor management and lack of focus.
Whereas writing about the Concept Peace Committee: A Snapshot Analysis of the Concept Peace Committee in Relation to Peacebuilding Initiatives in Kenya, Adan and Pkalya (2006) notes establishing local peace committees has been one of the strategies NGOs have used in Karamoja to promote peace. However, the authors observe that peace committees whose establishment were motivated by the benefits of funding from NGOs have experienced little stability, some have been formed, disbanded and reconstituted in an ad hoc basis and as deemed necessary by the funding institutions. Some districts have also seen a multiplicity of peace committees, as each funding agency tends to form its own peace committee. This has also midwifed another problem of the structure of peace committees as each funding institutions forms the committee in their own way and or structure. The peace outcomes have been diminished in the one hand, and on the other there is discredited legitimacy of such peace committee in society.
As it has been discussed in this article, peace work of NGOs in Karamoja can be possibly defined by two axes: social invention of peace that is, how peace can be imagined, and social uninvention of peace. Then, one could say, social invention of peace and conflicts by a great many NGOs could be explained or illustrated by a scenario of peace workers armed with their instrument of peace with a melange of best practices from elsewhere, streaming in conflict wrecked region aiming to mitigate the infinitely undesirable menace facing people, with minimal contextualization of their arsenals having limited knowledge about the logic that brought the violent conflict. Thus, the outcomes most often have remained minimal, if at all, they have not deescalated the existing unfavourable conditions depriving the well-being of people. This call for the need of all peace actors to contextualize their operational tools as they work in partnership with local communities, scholars, leaders, practitioners, and governments in formulation and implementation of plans, structures that are likely to reduce the impacts of conflicts and war bedevilling the region as well as promote people’s prosperity.
In Karamoja region, it seems pastoralism is a viable economic activity, considering it has existed for centuries, so it is there to stay, what NGOs, governments, and development partners working in this region should do, is to focus on complementary development initiatives, seeking to uplift lives of these pastoralist people and that could prop up pastoralism. For example, educating a pastoral child could be an enduring strategy to inject new civilization in this populace. This is likely to cultivate in masses the values of peace, humility, being human, probity, social justice, integrity, honesty, hardworking, innovation, thus, consolidating the much needed peace and development of the region.
Based on the above discussions and the conclusions, we are making the following suggestions:
- The role of NGOs to build peace and development in Karamoja is central, thus there is need for these organizations to contextualize their operations working in partnership with local communities, scholars, leaders, practitioners, and governments in formulating plans and implementation of people centred development initiatives to deal with a situation where NGO can achieve marginally social emancipation of many;
- NGOs and other peace actors working in Karamoja should take into account existing knowledge of pastoralists people when developing peacebuilding initiatives to foster community ownership of peace process and its sustainability;
- Regional governments should lay a platform to ensure vibrant coordination and partnership of NGOs and development partners in Karamoja to minimize replication of services but to maximize and reinforce initiatives seeking to yield optimum peace and development outcomes and offer seamless peace activities to pacify the entire region;
- NGOs seeking to promote peace and development in Karamoja should invest in constant research initiatives to establish new dynamics, trends, and revolutions of conflicts in order to embrace new innovative mitigating strategies and carry consistent monitoring and evaluation to establish achievement of their objectives, successes, outcomes, challenges and the way forward; and,
- Activities of peace in Karamoja should be included in the regional governments Integrated Development Plan to squarely deal with this age-old marginalization of these vast underdeveloped region.
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