Essay: To explore the Dodoth life structure in the pre and during disarmament process

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  • To explore the Dodoth life structure in the pre and during disarmament process
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1. Introduction

This report was prepared as a result of my field work activities carried out from1st August -15th November 2015 in Kathile Sub-county, Kaabong District with a focus on Life with neighbours without guns among the Dodoth Cluster in the Post-disarmament period.  The study looked into 1).Socio-cultural activities of the community during the pre, during and post-disarmament period, 2) The relationship that exists between the Dodoth Cluster and those relatively armed neighboring communities like Turkana and Toposa with greater emphasis on the security of their community, 3) the survival strategies in the post-disarmament period and 4) Silent underlying issues in Kathile Sub-county Kaabong District, Karamoja region, Uganda.

As a student of Aarhus University, I traveled to Uganda to carry out the fieldwork after being offered a fieldwork placement opportunity with Caritas Gulu Archdiocese to be part of the Integrated Food Security Project staff which started in 2014 to 2017 and part of the research team on Land Conflict in Akurumo Parish, Orom Sub-county and other planned areas in the Districts of Kitgum, Pader, Agago and Lamwo. The Integrated Food Security Project is being implemented in disadvantaged multi-cultural society in Orom Sub-county and other areas in Palabek Gem in Lamwo district.  I was supervised by the both the Project Officer for Caritas Gulu Archdiocese-Kitgum Office and the Executive Director. Both activities were planned and implemented with the guidance of the Supervisors. I had a close contact with my Academic supervisor from Aarhus University, Ass. Prof. Christian B. N Gade who later travelled to Uganda to meet me in regards to my fieldwork.

1.1 Responsibility While With Caritas Gulu Arch Diocese-Kitgum Office

My main responsibility with Caritas Gulu Archdiocese was to help in the implementation of Integrated Food Security Project; show how Food Security achievement can facilitate other components of Human Security in order to empower and guide these communities in their growth and development; help in monitoring and evaluation of the implemented phase of the project; and to be part of the team to carry out research to determine how land conflict hinders implementation of food security in pursuit of achieving livelihoods in the community. This is in line with the aims of the Caritas to work with the poorest of the poor members of the community with a great emphasis on social services and economic development programs. My activities with Caritas were programmed in such a way that I only participated in field activities twice a week and reports are written to that effect.  I had a one-week intensive research activities in October 2015 in East Acholi Districts of Kitgum, Pader, Agago, and Lamwo district on land conflict and its effect in achieving food security in Akurumo and Lulwa parishes, Orom Sub-county, Amida Sub-county, Palabek Gem Sub-county,  Wol Sub-county and Lira Palwo Sub-county respectively. After completion of the assessment, I was able to utilize other days to collect my data since it was only a 2 hours ride on a motor cycle on an 80 km road from Akurumo to Kathile which made easy planning and utilization of time appropriately.

1.2 Gaining Entry and Establishing Rapport in Data Collection Area

To gain entry into Kathile Sub-county, I considered choosing a site which I was familiar with.  I considered Nagolopak village in Akurumo Parish because Caritas Gulu Archdiocese has project beneficiaries in that village and being affiliated to Caritas, it was easier to get contact persons.

The Project Officer introduced me to the Community leaders of Akurumo parish and my purpose of being in Akurumo parish was explained to them as purely for academic; although I would be supporting them in the implementation of the integrated food security programme. Akurumo area is situated along the border of Kaabong and Kitgum District; and is inhabited mainly by the Karimojong origin who migrated and settled in Acholi land for various reasons such as having been disowned by their own clan members because of unsuccessful raids, a new settlement, intermarriages, and famine. They belong to the Acholi administrative set-up but social services like formal education and health services are acquired from Lubalangit Sub-county in Kaabong district. They mainly speak Nyakarimojong and their social cultural practices are more of Karimojong than Acholi although they speak a little bit of Acholi as well. They generally identify themselves as of Mening, Dodoth, Napore or Jie origin. The Karimojong are the group of Nilotic origin that occupied the Plateau plain of Northeastern Uganda and shows a strong Hamites characteristics derived from contact with Galla from Ethiopia; but speak the eastern Nilotic language as compare to the Acholi who speak the western Nilotic language and occupy northern Uganda  (Mukherjee: 1985, 22-23).  The Karimojong borders Acholi sub-region to the East.  Most of these people lived in Manyatta and they have both Acholi and Karimojong names. However, Manyatta in the area of Akurumo areas were dismantled for security reasons.

Most of my time while on fieldwork from 1st August to 15th November 2015, was spent in Akurumo parish and Kathile Sub-county in Kaabong district. I told them my blood lineage and eventually tried to behaved almost like a true Karimojong woman by drinking local drink called Abutya -made out of fermented sorghum or maize (see Annex 1) and learning how to make it, eating boiled beans mixed with maize and above all sleeping on cattle hides as my mattress. Historically, my maternal grandfather came from the Jie cluster from Kotido, even though now they identify themselves as Acholi. Literally, this shows that my mother is a Karimojong and I am a niece in Jie Cluster. According to my mother, her grandfather had several unsuccessful raids while still in Kotido, therefore, He was disowned from his clan and chased away from home. To them, unsuccessful raid is like a curse to the clan that calls for either being beaten to death or be isolated from any community functions and decision making. So my fore grandfather fell a victim and migrated through Orom, Namokora, Pajule to the present Koro in Gulu where they finally settled in the present Angagura in Payira- Lacekocot in Pader District in the early 1910s.

With this blood lineage, I was advised on the DOs and DON’Ts while interacting with the community by the local security officer in Akurumo. Therefore, I found it easy to start with Karimojong in Akurumo as the basis upon which I could create rapport with people of Dodoth origin and eventually it became a gateway to go in Kathile Sub-county and collect my data. With this good opportunity as an entry point for integration, I was able to stay with a Dodoth family that later directed me to the relatives in Kathile Sub-county, Narengepak, Naramaoi, Nakorichokei and Lokwapo villages. I also got a multi-linguistic interpreters who speaks Acholi, English and Nyakarimojong language fluently.

I also talked to two Uganda People Defense Force (UPDF) army commanders and other local security personnel who later became part of my respondents in Kaabong about my research. I was also advised to contact the Local Council (LC) Chairperson of the areas before getting in contact with my respondents.

I showed the local leaders my fieldwork contract from Aarhus University, letter from Caritas Gulu Archdiocese and my student identity card to gain permission to the community and conduct my study. The clan leaders approved my stay with them for data collection in their area.

I used the personal contact for ease of entry and acceptability to the people the way they are when I encountered them in their local setting. Although some people were deviant and other were professional stranger handlers, I made the LC and clan leaders as the key informant to help identify members of the community with indigenous knowledge about their traditional practices. I also mapped out the setting and develop social network that helped me become familiar with the setting and social organization hence gaining insight understanding of the situation. This network helped to select what to observe and from whom to gather relevant information to answer research questions.

Hanging out was another strategy to gain more trust and develop sense of belonging in the community especially in the marketplaces, drinking joints in the heart of trading centres in Kathile whereby I would move to people during their leisure time, sit and listen to their life stories, where possible pick-up a conversation while they are drinking. In this way getting involved in meeting and conversing with people was easy to develop a concrete relationship with the community members and used informal interviews, observation technique to collect my data especially in village market days. This informal life lived created trust and built strong ties with the community members which created an avenue for openness and gain the sense of belonging making data collection easier.

My expectation to get reliable primary data in Kaabong district about the state of affairs in the post-disarmament period was achieved and will be supplemented with secondary data and other relevant supportive literature review to my shape ideas when writing my thesis. It is my expectation that these legal instruments would validate and give out clear arguments in support of my collected data to generate appropriate solution to solve the research problem in Kathile Sub-county, Kaabong District

2. Disarmament Perspective Worldwide

Since the inception of the United Nations after the World War II, maintenance of peace and security has been the central focus (Dykmann: 2011, 79). Noticeably, UNODA (2015) maintained that “International disarmament agreements established universal norms against weapons that cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering, or whose use would be repugnant to the conscience of humankind” (UNODA: 2015, 1; Gamba, 2014:1). Numerous efforts by UN to effect disarmament with the concentration on big-ticket destructive weapons such as nuclear weapons (UNA-MN, 2014, para, 12-13) was the ultimate goals to be achieved, without  immediate attention given to small arm destructive effect imposed on civilian population causing human insecurities. However, it was evidenced that small arms were equally causing more threats to human kind globally especially in socially organized communities up to date. That is why The United Nations eventually adopted  â€œProgramme of Action to prevent, combat and eradicate the Illicit trade in small and light weapons in all aspect in 2001, besides, other resolution on disarmament” (Gillis 2009: 60, UNODA, 2008: 4) presumably, after decades of civil wars in mineral rich areas and genocides in many parts of the globe. Consequently, African Union was to address the issues of illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in Africa (UNODA, 2008: 71, Wezeman , 2003: 6).

According to Gillis (2009) “Disarmament is not only about eliminating weapons; it is also about creating opportunities – opportunities to think about security in new ways, to reprioritize our budgets, and to rethink sense of ourselves as nations in community with one another” ( Gillis 2009: 7; Gillis, 2012: 7).  Nonetheless, the UNODA (2008) resolved that “States should maintain strict regulations on the activities of private international arms dealers and cooperate to prevent such dealers from engaging in illicit arms trafficking” (UNODA: 2008, 71-72; UNIDR, 2006: 142; Gupta, 2000: 376). Accordingly, this is possible because it is politically binding for all members’ states of United Nations of which Uganda is one.  In this respect, Uganda has for long struggled to remove guns from the hands of civilian who are socially organized pastoralist-the Karimojong of the Northeastern Uganda. Karamoja region for long had registered low development indicators and low human index and high security threat not only to its inhabitant but to the neighboring communities of the Acholi, Lango, Teso, Sabiny and cross border communities of Kenya and South Sudan because of the availability of illicit guns and light weapons.

As a result, the best justification for peace building interventions as prerequisite for sustainable development to save the humanitarian situations in Karamoja (OPM: 2007, 1), was to disarm the Karimojong warriors and sealed off the borders to stop any gun trafficking. Disarmament strategy took different stages ranging from voluntary to forceful between 2001-2010 to get rid of all illicit guns and ammunition in the hands of Karimojong Warriors, although government capacity to ensure total peace is still limited (ibid: 2007, 2).

2.1 Background to Uganda and the study area

Uganda is landlocked country located in East Africa, with a developing economy and is  bordered on the east by Kenya,  north by South Sudan, west by the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), on the south- west by Rwanda, and on the south by Tanzania. In addition, Uganda has an estimated current population of about 34,758,809 with a growth rate of 3.32 % (UBOS: 2014). Ugandan economy predominantly depends on Agriculture with progressive growth in mining industries like oil exploration, gold and others. There has been low growth rate in Northern and Northeastern Uganda due to insecurity in the area that lasted for a long time. The Acholi , Lango, Teso had been insecure for over 20 years as a result of operation of Lord Resistance Army under the leadership of Joseph Kony and Cattle raiders by Karimojong. The Karimojong had guns and manned their owned security and caused insecurity in the neighboring areas and within their region (Powell: 2010: 1-2). This made it quite difficult for the development to take shape. The continuous disarmament of the Karimojong and expulsion of the LRA from Northern region had opened way to development in different sectors; infrastructural development like roads, rural electrifications, the establishment of institutions like schools, health units to the grass root level for effective and efficient service delivery . Kaabong district is one of the districts in Karamoja region. It was formerly known as Dodoth County before upgrading.

Kaabong District is located in the North-Western part of Karamoja region in North-Eastern Uganda occupied by ethnic clusters like Napore, Dodoth, Ike (Teuso), Mening. It is boarded by South Sudan in the Northwest, Kitgum in the West, Kotido in the South, Moroto in the East and Kenya in the North East.  It comprises of three counties Dodoth East, Dodoth West and the Ik / Teuso counties. It has fourteen Sub-counties namely Lobalangit, Karenga, Kawalakol, Kapedo, Kamion, Kathile, Kalapata, Kaabong East, Kaabong West, Kaabong Town council, Lolelia, Lodiko, Sidok and Loyoro . According to the provisional result, Kaabong District has a total population of 169,274(UBOS, 2014: 23). Kathile is one of the sub counties in Kaabong with 3,569 households with a total population of 21,123 of which 9,824 are male and 11,299 are female (ibid: 2014: 47).  The major economic activities of the Dodoth are livestock rearing with small scaled food crop production as a subsidies. Tourism is progressing due to the presence and access to Kidepo National Game Park. . Kathile Sub-county is bordered by Kalapata in the East, Kenya in the Northeast, South Sudan in the North, Karenga in the West, Kapedo in the Southwest and Kaabong west to the south. It is predominantly inhabited by the Dodoth.

2.2 Field Observation while in Kathile Sub-county

Development in terms of infrastructures like houses, roads and other social services are taking shape in Kaabong Township but as I moved towards the villages in Kathile Sub-county, I realized that the good infrastructures tend to diminish.  Manyatta homesteads are seen, dry land with few dotted shrubs, bad road networks with potholes and pastoralists’ lifestyle is vividly seen. Manyatta is a kind of homestead fenced round with pieces of wood of about one metre width in which huts are enclosed with a small gate (see Annex 2). These rings of wood are also used as partition of other families’ compounds from another within the Manyatta. Within the fence, there are other smaller fence of the same diameter that characterized by round grass thatched huts crowded around one place, separating one family’s compound from the other, the girls huts from boys, their parents, married couples and animals shelters.  These pieces of wood is pack closely such that even snakes should not pass through to enter inside the homestead. Whatever is done inside is not seen and heard by anybody outside.

So in each Manyatta there exists several households (families) who are identified as a part of the clan. I was curious to know the reason(s) for the style of buildings in the area.  And I was told, the settlements signified the Karimojong culture, the small gates is to prevent any intruders or enemies from accessing any properties inside the Manyatta and it is closed every night with  big logs that are properly crisscrossed; of which is very difficult if not impossible for someone from outside to open. In this way, someone inside will have been alerted with what is going on outside. The people in Kathile are very security conscious such that any strange face that appears in Manyatta draws everybody’s concern, attention and the message will immediately circulate in the entire Manyatta; you will definitely be approached by the local security intelligent personnel who in most cases is a multi-linguistic and besides, they will not open up unless the elders have assured them to freely interact with the visitor(s). I was told that for security purposes, it is mandatory that some person(s) must sleep closer to the main entry with required tools in most cases guns. They explains how livestock used to be protected with guns while grazing. I observed that so few men live an isolated life but most people live together especially in marketplaces in the centers.

In addition to that, I also observed that men and women wake up in the morning as early as 7 o’clock to go to drink “Abutya” which is regarded as breakfast. Preparing “abutya” is a daily activity of women and they spend days without eating cooked food. They sniff “etaba” pounded tobacco across sex.  To them, “etaba” gives strength that makes one walk for long distance on an empty stomach, one becomes braver and enables one stay awake for long. Garden work is mainly done by women with very little support from men. Men mainly carry their traditional stool and stick in their hands to the garden, although in some cases they remove tree stumps from the garden. It was mostly dry season between July to mid October 2015 that made all planted crops dried up, but it started raining heavily from Mid October2015 that made farming impossible. Thus, I did not get the opportunity to reach and observe them in their gardens. They don’t grow cash crops but rather food crops on a small scale. I also observed that men now put on trousers and shirts instead of wrapping themselves with a sheet or traditional piece of cloth. There is very limited cross-cutting roles among the various age groups and sexes.

The environment in which they live is very unhygienic, and the animals are kept at night in the same compound with human beings. The children (both boys and girls) wake up very early in the morning at about 6:00 am to go and milk the cows and goats, they then later scoop all the cow dung within the compound and deposit them outside Manyatta before taking animals for grazing. There is nothing like planned breakfast that the family members take every morning, those taking animals for grazing pack boiled maize mixed with beans in the skinned bags or polythene bags and roasted fermented sorghum or maize flour. That will serve as their breakfast and lunch until they return in the evening. In a very organized home, food is cooked once every evening. Apparently, the Karimojong in Kathile eat real meal once a day on average.  Most sanitation facilities are not available within the Manyatta except bathing shelter

2.3 Original study ideas

My initial intention before travelling to Uganda was to examine how the Dodoth cluster is relating with the neighbours and surviving after disarmament due to power imbalances created by uneven disarmament since they are almost surrounded by neighbours who are relatively armed pastoralists like Toposa of South Sudan, Turkana of Kenya, Matheniko and Jie except Acholi to the west. My ideas and area of study did not change. My ideas has mainly been inspired by scholars like Kopel et al (2008) who noted that “The Karimojong had learned that cows and guns are equally indispensable: a gun needs to be immediately accessible in order to protect one’s herd, and they are only best armed tribes prevailed” (Kopel et al: 2008, 392) certainly, freedom of Dodoth people could only be achieved with the presence of gun to protect their properties. To ensure that peace and security prevail in Karamoja, Ugandan government enacted disarmament. However, uneven pattern of disarmament surface thus leaving some cluster in Karamoja vulnerable to raids by other armed clusters (HRW 2007: 23). This power imbalance left Dodoth vulnerable to Toposa, Turkana and Jie. It is on this note that I decided to explore what the future of Dodoth holds without guns as they continue to interact with armed pastoralists and unarmed neighboring society with whom they had conflicts.

2.4 Changes on original research ideas and research objectives

It is out of the existing gaps in the researches carried out in Karamoja region and inspiration created by scholars like Kopel et al…(2008) who stated that “The Karimojong had learned that cows and guns are equally indispensable:…” and Stites et al… (2010) who noted that Karimojong men believe that “they have reduced them to the level of women” (Stites et al…,(2010 ) that inspired me to undertake this fieldwork. Consequently, I reformulated my first research objective of “To explore how the future of Dodoth Community holds without guns?” which can be addressed under survival strategies as “to explore the Dodoth life structure in the pre and during disarmament process” such that it will give the historical life structure of the Dodoth cluster before post-disarmament. On this note, I also changed my first research question as “How were the Dodoth life structured in pre and during disarmament process?”  Therefore, my new research objectives are:-

i. To explore the Dodoth life structure in the pre and during disarmament process

ii. To identify relationship that exists between the Dodoth and neighboring pastoralist communities of Turkana and Toposa in the post-disarmament period.

iii. To analyze survival strategies that is being employed by the Dodoth to ensure community security

iv. To establish the silent underlying issues among the Dodoth clusters about the disarmament

My research questions are:

i. How did the Dodoth structure their life pattern in the pre and during disarmament process?

ii. What relationship exist between the Dodoth, Turkana and Toposa in the post-disarmament period?

iii. What are the survival strategies that are being employed by the Dodoth to ensure community security?

iv. What are the silent underlying issues among the Dodoth community about the disarmament?

In my final thesis, I intend to use humanitarian approach to explain why disarmament process should take a peaceful means to embrace human security framework and how loss of vital interests among the Dodoth cluster remains a problem leading to rearmament in return to what is assumed to be security strategies to safeguard their property rights and restore community security.

2.5 New State of the Art after visiting the field

During the disarmament processes, both government agency and the non-governmental organization got involved with the intention to protect the civilian by providing emergency relief services, providing necessary security to protect their properties or attitude change services. After the warriors in Kathile were disarmed, they remained vulnerable in the hands of Toposa, Turkana, and Jie. Raiding was the basic economic and social activities that would enable them meet the needs of their traditional obligation like marriage ceremonies, performing traditions rituals and solely provide all basic needs of their family.  Losing many people, resulted in many orphans and widows, social life trend was immediately altered that made it a little difficult for them to adapt to change. Raiding used to be the basis for economic games which helped to redistribute wealth but things have changed. Food insecurity escalated since they do not have many herds of cattle to exchange with another type of food. Dependency syndrome level has increased, since most men are now idle in Manyatta waiting for the external agencies to provide things for their survival or wait for the proceeds of women endeavor to cultivate the land. Others have resorted into activities that are more destructive to the environment like indiscriminative cutting of trees for firewood and charcoal burning for sale which is increasing the risk to destroying the environment. Particularly in Kathile, people are full of the bitterness of the new change in their life but remain calm, united and hoping to rejuvenate their lost powers.

2.6 Relevance of the study

The choice to live with the community was, first to be part of the Karimojong live and keenly study their pattern of life and their socio-economic activities on a daily basis and what takes place inside Manyatta at night. My frequent visit to Kathile enabled re-evaluation of the interview guides and concentrated on other parts which were not exhaustively answered. I used to participate in some of their community activities and joined them especially domestic work. This participation enabled gaining some contacts that are very important to my research in future. It created rapport which enabled almost everybody to willingly talk about their ordeals, hence making data collection process successful.

My involvement enabled me to make useful observations on a different aspect of Karimojong Cultures and in understanding their socio-cultural, political and economic activities that define their unique community both in pre and post-disarmament period.

Besides collecting valuable data, my fieldwork also enabled me to connect the theoretical classroom work and real practical life experiences which gave me a chance to undertake an empirical data collection. To that effect, it enabled me comprehend and contextualize the Human Security concepts which I learnt in relation to the study area. In addition to that, the fieldwork enabled me to interact and got entranced into the Karimojong culture freely. Furthermore, the fieldwork helped me to enrich my data collection skills which will be an indispensable condition in carrying out future researches and projects.

This field work has changed my perspectives such that I am able to critically understand and accept the socio-cultural, political and economic set-up of Karimojong communities. I used to spend four days every week in Kathile which was sufficient for me to move from one Manyatta to the other to collect data although the days were not fixed.

These fieldwork findings with reference to previous studies and reports has helped to gather in-depth information in relation to survival strategies among the Dodoth communities in the post-disarmament in Kathile Sub-county.

The possible solutions to be suggested in my final thesis will help to address post-disarmament trauma and silent underlying issues by various development partners so as to manage the current situation in a bid to realize their effort to bring development in the area and add value to the affected community.

These fieldwork findings will provide vital information to policy makers both at the national and local level to improve the welfare of the community particularly Dodoth cluster.

3. Methodology

3.1 Design

This fieldwork design depended on interviews and observation to collect data. There were structured interview guides that guided the interview session within Manyatta.  The observation and participant observation provided rich results and unexpected fieldwork findings that establish an in-depth understanding of the survival in the post-disarmament situation in Kathile Sub-county in Kaabong district.

During this fieldwork, different approach were used to establishing the cultural norms, practices and context that may not be clear in the external natural human settings. It helped in focusing on interactive processes, events and genuineness behaviors that help to construct social reality and cultural significances in the natural setup. After getting relevant information with the elders/clan leader and LC about the current situation, with specified locations of Manyatta/villages to be visited, I made sure that the problem under investigation is undertaken from different dimensions which allowed multiple aspects of the phenomenon to be exposed and understood. Consequently, I gained the insight complexity of Dodoth community.

3.1.1 Field Engagements

During my field work in Kathile, I interviewed a total of 46 respondents both males (29) and females (16). Most of the field work was carried out in the month of Mid-August to 10th November 2015 as I used the first two weeks of August preparing for my field engagement.

The first field visit made was to make contact with the local leaders, permission to carry out data collection in the area and carry out pre-test of my interviews guide. At the end of August, I visited the research area 10 times and conducted interviews to the specific group of people depending on the precise knowledge they had in order to meet the deadline. I recorded the interviews made and noted down all the informal interviews conducted. Respondents were interviewed according to their roles they play in their Manyatta.

However, during the month of October 2015, I was engaged for a week in intensive research on land conflict and its effect on the implementation of food security projects in selected area of East Acholi District. This was a Caritas planned activities which equipped me further with data collection processes and techniques during the orientation workshop and actual data collection.

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