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Security and Violence

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The physical and mental impact of conflict in northern Uganda has been described in our previous reports and elsewhere.[1] The 2010 data confirm the extent of the violence during the two decades of conflict. Some potentially traumatic events affected most respondents, including displacement (88%), theft or destruction of goods or property (86%), destruction of a home (77%), feeling threatened with death (68%), and witnessing violence (67%). A large number of respondents also reported the death of a household member due to the conflict, and nearly half (49%) reported having experienced direct physical violence in the form of beating by armed groups. Abduction has been an important aspect of the LRA’s strategy, both as a means of recruitment and instilling fear. In the four districts, 45 percent of the adult population reported having been abducted, and 41 percent reported having been forced to carry loads for armed groups. In-depth work in 2007 suggested that while over 40 percent of adults in the Acholi districts reported abduction, a lower proportion (28%) had been abducted for at least a week. This suggests that many of the self-reported abduction are possibly short term “arrests,” with immediate release or escape. The small percentage of abduction in the last year may reflect arrests by the military and/or recent release. Overall, the survey results confirm earlier findings that the scope and frequency of abduction is much higher than previous figures, with a conservative estimate of 54,000 to 75,000 abductions.[2]

Figure 8: Violence*

Figure 8 - Violence*

* Incidence reflects events experienced in the one-year period prior to the survey. For displacement, it reflects the proportion of respondents who still considered themselves displaced at the time of the survey. 

Improving Security

The decrease in reported violent events points to an overall increase in physical security since the first survey in 2005. This is confirmed by measures of the sense of security among respondents. Over two in three respondents judged the situation in northern Uganda to be secure or very secure (69%), and nearly four out of five respondents judged the situation in their village or community to be secure or very secure (78%). At least four out of five respondents further felt “safe” or “very safe” when walking at night (80%), going to the nearest village (88%), sleeping at night (89%), or going to work, or collecting water or firewood (90%).

In 2007, security had already improved compared to 2005, following the withdrawal of the LRA to Garamba National Park in the DRC. By 2010, the sense of security has further increased for all of the proposed situations, except meeting former LRA commanders, and talking to UPDF soldiers. At the district level, the data suggest that the sense of security has increased the most in Kitgum and Pader, while it stayed similar or even decreased in Gulu. This perception of insecurity is possibly due to the urbanization and increased commercial activity in Gulu town, the main urban center.

Figure 9: Sense of Security 2007 / 2010

Figure 9 - Sense of Security 2007 / 2010

In addition, the 2010 survey found, as expected, that the incidence of violence has dramatically declined. Respondents reported whether violent events due to armed groups had occurred in the one-year period prior to the survey. The event that continued to affect the majority of respondents was displacement (8%), although it was not new displacement, but rather people who had yet to resettle and were still displaced at the time of the survey. Each of the other events was reported by less than 2 percent of the respondents over the one-year recall period prior to the survey, and many reported none (household member killed, forced to carry loads, forced to commit violence, sexual violence). Two percent reported abduction, which may reflect arrests by the military and/or other armed groups.

The results of the survey suggest a vast improvement in security since 2005. A majority of respondents were further confident that security will continue to improve (75%), while 10 percent said it will worsen. Still, the improvement in security is not necessarily attributed to the state. One in five respondents (21%) replied that only they, their community, or God provide security. UPDF soldiers were mentioned by 30 percent of respondents, and the government by 35 percent. Respondents provided a wide range of responses when asked what needed to be done to improve security. They most frequently mentioned building the capacity of the UPDF (30%) and the police (25%). They also proposed social measures, including reducing poverty (26%), uniting the people (20%), educating the youth (19%), and providing social services to the community (15%).

[1] Pham et al. 2007 at n2; Pham et al. 2005. at n2

[2] Pham PN, Vinck P, Stover E. The Lord’s Resistance Army and Forced Conscription in Northern Uganda. Human Rights Quarterly 2008; 30:404–411; Pham PN, Vinck P, Stover E. Returning home: forced conscription, reintegration, and mental health status of former abductees of the Lord's Resistance Army in northern Uganda. BMC Psychiatry 2009; 9 (23); Blattman C, Annan J. (March 2008) On the nature and causes of LRA abduction: What the abductees say (forthcoming book chapter).