Training Session– Working in a Post Conflict Area

This is the Working in a Post Conflict Area session outline I created for training the newbies in country.  Of course, it is missing the life that having a human being brings and the stories that can only be told face to face.  Something that helped when presenting was a giant map of Uganda where we taped on the different rebel groups in the areas they created chaos as well as the displaced and numbers in the IDP camps.  Hopefully this presents a basic outline of working in Northern Uganda. 



  1. Objective- to better equip Fall 2010 trainees to work in post conflict areas by being informed on the history of conflicts in Uganda, to better understand how this has effected individuals and communities, and being a Peace Corps Volunteer in these areas.  
  2. Relevancy to Volunteers- Although Northern Uganda is the most recognized area in Uganda for being a post conflict area, volunteers everywhere work with people who have been displaced or have somehow been affected by the LRA or other rebel groups.


  1. Conflict
    1. History Timeline- Included at the very end of this.
    2. Causes of Conflict- civil wars last a long time, rarely produce clear winners and losers, and typically end because of stalemate, both sides’ exhaustion, external intervention, or some combination of these factors. Involves countless communities where neighbors suddenly find themselves fighting one another. A war between those who were once friends, neighbors, and colleagues. The conflict and resulting distrust can quickly destroy any social norms of civic-minded behavior. Leadership is not clearly distinct, fighting is frequently conducted by different militia groups varying in their ideological reasoning, and the local and communal identity many times exceeds the collective identification.  When fighting stops, community rehab is as important as individual rehabilitation.  They must learn to be neighbors and friends once again.  Communities must again create a sense of joint purpose, with networks of trust and mechanisms for citizens to involve themselves in collaborative problem-solving.


    3. Rebel Groups in Uganda- much more complicated than a “tribal” war. 

    1. Alliance for Democratic Forces (ADF)- operating in the west, Sudan government accused of providing military assistance.
    2. West Nile Bank Front (WNBF)- considered defeated in 1997.
    3. Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA)- lead by Joseph Kony, started in 1986 and is currently in the upper portion of the DRC, known for abductions for child soldiers and sex slaves.
    4. Karamajong Cattle Herders- although not a rebel group, creates havoc and chaos in their area.
    5. How individuals and communities have been affected-
      1. Numbers and Areas
        1. As of January 2010-
          1. Refugees-127,345
          2. Asylum Seekers- 11, 551
          3. Returned Refugees- 88
          4. Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) in camps in transit sites- 446,300
          5. Returned IDP- 408,000
          6. Total population of Concern- 992,984


    1. From Surrounding Areas
      1. Roughly 170,000 Southern Sudanese refugees in north east Kaabong area.
      2. 50,000 Congolese in the South West of Kisoro and Kanungu district since 2008, also in Arua, Moyo, and Adjumabi district
      3. 138,000 people, or 80%, in the district above Kasese were displaced by the Allied Democratic Front (ADF) insurgency.
      4. UNHCR will continue to assist refugees from Burundi, the DRC, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan and other countries who live in the settlements and in urban areas in Kampala.
  2. Individual-
    1. Current Psychosocial related issues
      1. Inability to forget the past (killing of family members, loss of family members, loss of resources such as land and animals, relatives that were helping with school fees and whatnot are now dead, a lot of emotional turmoil.
    2. People are still out of their original homes
      1. Alienated from own home, scared that the war isn’t truly over, had to make life wherever they were with different land, houses, animals, and friends.
    3. Sense of helplessness and disempowerment
      1. Lots of issues with spiritualism, hallucinations, and beliefs of people still being alive and haunting the land and loved ones.
      2. Loss of control over individuals lives (tomorrow may never come)
      3. General fear, betrayal, mistrust in others and themselves, and ridicule
      4. Gender issues- on the contrary such that each gender blames the other (army men are seen as rich therefore mothers allow daughters to work for them or have sexual relations, daughters are able to bring food back to the family, and then the daughter gets HIV from sexual work… something for something survival “love”).
  3. Communities (Overcrowded IDP and refugee camps)-
    1. Landmines left people dead or disabled making it difficult to dig or provide for their family.
    2. Displacements from ancestral lands create land rights problematic.
    3. Lack of clean water, food, and poor hygienic conditions with cholera, malaria, scabies, other diarrhea-related diseases, respiratory infections and malnutrition.
    4. Lack social and basic health services
    5. Little or no access to post-primary education
    6. No legal remedies in cases of sexual and gender based violence.
    7. Food insecurity and poverty in return areas continue to keep people from returning home.
    8. Lived in insecure conditions, plagued by poor infrastructure and protection risks.
  4. Addressing Needs-
    1. Individuals Mental Health-
      1. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder  (gave a 4 page handout on this at the session)
      2. Affect/emotional processing addressed through such methods as enabling the expression of unconscious or repressed emotions (“abreaction”) and transforming uncontrollable anxieties into tolerable fears;
      3. Cognitive processing– addressed through such methods as reframing the situation and manipulating the person’s cognitive appraisal; and
      4. Active-behavioral processing addressed through such methods as encouraging active behavior and practicing preferred behavioral patterns.
    2. Addressing Community Needs.
      1. Social Capitol- features of social organization, such as trust, norms, and networks, that can improve the efficiency of society by facilitating coordinated actions. Ex: simple communal activities as citizens’ meetings, neighborhood gatherings, voluntary teamwork, support groups, and social clubs for dancing, music, and games.
      2. Citizenship behavior- is marked, above all, by active participation in the public affairs of one’s community. Produces two valuable outcomes: a stronger and more effective community, and individuals who feel a sense of empowerment and self-efficacy. Ex: initiatives in politics, economic enterprise, environmental protection, civil rights, education, and culture.
      3. Service Learning- form of experiential education that combines structured opportunities for acquiring academic skills, reflection on the normative dimensions of civic life, and activity that addresses community needs or assists individuals or families in need. Transforming many thousands of students from passive members to active participants, from help-seekers to help-providers, from at-risk to at-strength, and from self-centered youth to service-oriented leaders
    3. What others are doing (UNCHR Targets for 2010)-
      1. Strengthened and improved protection delivery.
      2. Natural resources and the shared environment are better protected.
      3. Partnerships with local actors are strengthened.
      4. Refugees have access to primary education and basic health services.
      5. Basic domestic and hygiene items are available for all refugees.
      6. Improved shelter and infrastructure are made available in settlements.
      7. Satisfactory sanitary conditions are in place in refugee settlements.
      8. Increased livelihood opportunities are made available.
      9. The role of a volunteer and what challenges they may face-
        1. Needs Assessment based on teachers in the north-
    4. Agriculture- support by teaching about seeds, efficiency of equipment, sensitize on methods and modes.
    5. Community Health- Sensitize about hygiene and sanitation, reproductive health, HIV
    6. Economic Development- IGA’s in groups (to keep them accountable), savings, VSLA
    7. Youth Development- Let them learn to be self reliant, training on practical vocational skills, create recreational places.
    8. NGO Development- Committed to work (some say this will come with higher pay), made Pader what it is, people divert funds for own use and take it to people who don’t really need it (issues of transparency and corruption).
  5. Who to Partner With-
    1. Elderly- knew life before conflict and are respected in their communities.
    2. Middle aged adults- grew up here and are the caretakers of young people
    3. Youth- Always seen as the “next generation” who will lead the country, have more energy, and will make a difference YET they may not know anything other than conflict and it might be hard to get them out of the habits and social norms of growing up in a conflict area. Working with schools or set youth groups can be a good avenue for advocacy and action.  Service by young people appears to be a common element in the various patterns of building post-conflict civil societies. Help minimize civil tension and promote common identity by leading and showing that youth can work together effectively.
    4. LC’s and leaders in the community- they will know what is going on, who needs help, and who is more willing to help them.


Peace Corps Volunteer Words to ponder… 

  1. INTEGRATE—As a Peace Corps volunteer, you become part of the community which is unlike short term researchers and volunteers.
  2.  WARTOURISM— and “Voluntourism” can have westerners come and go frequently.  You can embrace it and help facilitate visitors, create a volunteer manual, have dinner with them occasionally, but try not to get caught up in socializing with only Westerners and the ex-pat life for it can keep you from really integrating into your community.
  3. RESEARCH—When working in a post conflict area, research, read books, or ask adults who have worked with those affected that are comfortable sharing about the conflict to get a basis of what happened. 
  4. LISTEN—If someone wants to talk about their experience, let them but most likely they will never bring it up.  Asking a particular person about their experience in the bush when they were abducted or bringing up the past can cause an episode…
  5. SANITY—If you do hear an extreme story or are overwhelmed by something, please talk to someone whether it is your counterpart, PCV, or counselor.  Please stay sane.  Be aware of secondary trauma and burnout.
  6. SEPARATE—Try to separate work and life afterhours… dwelling on the atrocities of human kind isn’t healthy but happens.
  7. RESOURCEFUL—Be flexible with resources and in ways to respond.
  8. ADAPTABLE—Adopt approaches that respond to that particular demand and need rather than always depending on the more conventional models.
  9. UNDERUTILIZED—Organizations might get frustrated with a PCV since we aren’t Western Donors who primarily fund projects.  Orgs may be used to volunteers and researchers that stay for a few weeks or months at a time and may not know how to really utilize your skills.  Might also get used as the “Token White Guy”.
  10. OVERWHELMED—In a donor society, dependency issues, extreme helplessness, and the way white people are viewed is overwhelming.  Rather than promising money, try to work on the quality of programs.

Lord’s Resistance Army Conflict Background 

  1. 1962- Independence from British
    1. Political leadership changed rapidly.
    2. 1985- Alice Lakwena and the Holy Spirit Movement
    3. 1986- “Start of Conflict”
      1. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni rules
      2. Jospeh Kony starts LRA, goes to Southern Sudan
      3. Abductions of young boys and girls, as young as 8-17
      4. Rough trekking to S. Sudan
        1. Hunger, rape, murder, mutilations, torture, carrying looted items

1st Group- trained as Child Soldiers (girls and boys) 

2nd Group- Girls used as sex workers for LRA leaders… Child Mothers where their children are constant reminders of their abductions 

3rd Group- Laborers, carry looted items. 

If you say you are tired, they would cut the person.  If you can’t swim and they are crossing a river, you drown. 

  1. 1992-1996- IDP camps established by Government of Uganda and controlled by the UPDF Government army.
    1. IDP camps created many problems including easier to abduct since the people were all together, access to land and farm became problematic (could only leave and come back at certain times and if you were late, they would shoot you since you could be an LRA soldier), World Food Program was needed to fulfill food needs (although the LRA would occasionally shoot the trucks and steal the food before it ever reached the distribution center).
    2. 2005- Peace Talks with Southern Sudan
    3. 2006– total cessation of fire, let the people go home!!
      1. Decongestion of camps
      2. Smaller in between camps created
      3. Return process continued and camps were declared closed 31 March 2007
      4. Operation “Lightning Thunder” was to take LRA out but Kony left the day before.
      5. 2005- ICC (International Criminal Court)
        1. Cessation of fire, compensation of lives taken by LRA reparation, arrest warrants for top 5 LRA—which has been said to have stopped Kony from signing Peace agreements.
        2. LRA is still active in the Congo.  Not as much movement or action as before, but still around…

 Conflict background by Rev. Sister Margaret Aceng, March 20, 2010


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