Northern Uganda experienced one of Africa’s longest running conflicts from 1987 through 2007. The Lord’s Resistance Army terrorized communities, and abducted tens of thousands of children to train as child soldiers. The conflict exacted severe economic losses, leading to mass displacement of people, a breakdown in infrastructure, and severely weakened governance and social structures. In the years since 2007, Northern Uganda has rebounded from the shadow of conflict to become relatively peaceful and stable. According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, an estimated 95 percent of the 1.8 million people living in Internally Displaced Persons camps at the height of the conflict have returned to their homes.
While nearly everyone in the region has experienced loss and continues to face challenges, the process of reintegrating into society has been particularly difficult for young people who were abducted and pressed into service by the LRA. Several international and community-based organizations introduced vocational training programs to provide former abductees with skills to help them become self-reliant and reintegrate into their communities.
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) identified and trained, vulnerable youth and provided them employment opportunities to make furniture for schools that were being rehabilitated by USG and other donor programs. The restored schools and housing for teachers have encouraged a large number of children to enroll.
Jeanne Briggs, USAID Program Officer in Gulu, Northern Uganda, says: “Children and youth not only move about freely without fear of abduction by the LRA, but they are back in school and studying again. Farmers have re-opened the land that was abandoned during the conflict and are producing food for their families. Northern Ugandans are accessing basic health services and local level police and justice facilities are functioning again. Most importantly, the district local officials are once again fully in charge of governance and ensuring that the needs of communities are being addressed.”
Today, USAID’s programs in Northern Uganda focus on supporting the Government of Uganda’s Peace, Recovery, and Development Plan. The American people are working in partnership with the people of Uganda to help rebuild the north, and remain committed to supporting efforts to promote reconstruction, transitional justice, and reconciliation. While much has been accomplished in Northern Uganda over the past four years, much work still needs to be done.
Podcast on NUTI program: John Gattorn on Northern Uganda Transition Initiative (NUTI)