Of conflict, climate change in Karamoja

Juliet Katusiime Zizinga

What you need to know:

  • As a region, Karamoja still stands challenged, with education, food-water-energy deprivation, health, and childhood pregnancies, and now insecurity.

The instability in Karamoja reverses the sub-region’s social growth and fight against climate change effects. The recent news and reports of violations, and security issues in the area need to concern everyone, especially international development partners, government agencies and non-governmental organisations.

As a region, Karamoja still stands challenged, with education, food-water-energy deprivation, health, and childhood pregnancies, and now insecurity.

The status is regardless of the relatively more focused aid and support when compared to other regions in the country. However, reports from the sub-region progressively indicated that the region had gained ‘relative peace’ and some positive indicators of social progress. 

As the world grapples with climate change and related effects of rising temperatures, and unpredictable rainfall (seasons and amounts), the already challenged nations and places are hit the hardest. The climate history and other geographical factors in Karamoja, couple up with the recognised global climate change threat.

In response, adaptation and resilience-building initiatives have been a core policy for the Karamoja sub-region. The sub-region has been a great hub for experimental and long term programmes and learning but also, an effort that has taken some time and demanded progressive financial investment.

As such, we don’t want to imagine the reported occurrences of insecurity signal a failure of the said effort to translate into substantial effect.

Alternatively, the insecurity signals the difficulty already challenged populations will wait through climate change adaptation and resilience-building programmes before resorting to other life hacks, some of which are more negative like cattle raiding.  

The cause of the conflict in Karamoja varies but majorly aligns with natural resources development inequalities. There is discontent due to the heard abundance of minerals and other resources, mixed with the perceived absentia of local control, evidence and belief that the growth of that sector is meant for the residents’ good. Such discontent around natural resources development is not only limited to Karamoja sub-region, but readable around the country, wherever-similar patterns are perceptible. Occasionally, I term it ‘the fear of development’ due to the ‘fears the development’ is bringing.

Indeed, conflict and all manners of fighting are making a solid mark in the climate change fight. Looking at the European case for instance, where debates continue about the use and dependence on oil and gas from Russia, while they condemn the aggression and invasion of Ukraine and the claimed human rights violations.

The Karamoja case might seem micro to this comparison, but it brings the point home. Insecurities and any response thereof involving the use of weaponry ought to be viewed as detrimental to climate resilience-building efforts and progress.

At a community level, the acts cause people to flee their homes and projects, occupational activities like artisanal mining, farming, or pastoralism. This situation results in livelihood losses. We call for addressing the causes, both evident and salient amicably.

Building resilience of communities needs to be doubled and viewed holistically, as a national and global demand to ‘leave no one behind.

Remember that if Karamoja wins, we all win. If you have been keen, many children and young parents from  Karamoja rounded off the city streets are a tough reminder that attention needs to be given to where they come from as well. Whenever I got an opportunity to work with the communities in Karamoja, I got marvelled at the region’s environmental and people potential, whose growth needs  support of all stakeholders.

Juliet Katusiime Zizinga  is a PhD candidate at Freie Universität Berlin, Germany

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