Substantiating the Claim: Establishing the Effectiveness of a Post-Conflict Directory

 

 
March 2013
 
Directory-Oriented Peacebuilding Series

Far too often, a peace agreement is viewed as the final chapter in the saga of a civil war. In reality, however, the work of peacebuilding is just beginning. Successful post-conflict efforts will only survive the precarious early stages of the post-conflict period if they are based on a coordinated, integrated, and holistic approach by peacebuilding actors. Over the course of this four-part series, this author seeks to achieve four distinct yet complementary objectives. The first and foundational article of this series synthesizes existing academic knowledge to more fully understand the far-reaching impacts of civil conflict on societies, which in turn informs our understanding of the peacebuilding process ("The Cost of Conflict: Understanding the Ramifications of Internal Warfare"). The second article builds upon this knowledge, as principles of post-conflict coordination are introduced with the aim of demonstrating how increased coordination and cooperation could greatly improve existing efforts ("The Coordination Quandary: Applications and Implications of Post-Conflict Coordination Principles"). Practical applications of such concepts can be found in the following two articles. In the third article, the usefulness of a post-conflict directory is introduced and developed, as this author contends that such a resource would greatly improve the coordination of post-conflict efforts ("Rehabilitating the Responders: The Role of a Post-Conflict Directory in Improving Coordination"). The fourth article concludes this series by analyzing how a post-conflict directory would have improved coordination in the aftermath of the Ugandan civil war and the reconstruction projects that followed in its aftermath ("Substantiating the Claim: Establishing the Effectiveness of a Post-Conflict Directory").

Introduction

It is the hope of this author that the suggestions found in this four-part series will serve as a springboard for future coordination efforts through the use of a post-conflict directory.

Throughout the course of this four-part series, the multifaceted ramifications of civil conflict have been explored, and attention has been drawn to the variety of ways in which a post-conflict society is typically worse off than before the conflict (Mack, 2006). We have also considered the many difficulties that prevent a post-conflict society from flourishing even after violence ends. For example, a civil conflict of just five years has been shown to reduce a nation's annual growth rate by more than 2%, prompting a variety of societal tolls (Hoeffler and Reynal-Querol, 2003). With such a sobering statistic in mind, what hope is there for a country like Uganda, which has been ravaged by civil conflict for a period much longer than five years? The answer, fortunately, is that there is hope for Uganda, based on the resiliency and ingenuity of the local population, as well as the valiant efforts of local and international aid organizations.

Despite such achievements, coordination problems have cropped up in Uganda's post-conflict stage, meaning that improvement is also in order for this country's post-conflict stage. Along these lines, this article will test the feasibility of the previously suggested post-conflict directory by applying this resource to reconstruction efforts in northern Uganda. Such an examination illustrates that a post-conflict directory could have ameliorated some of the challenges faced in this post-conflict region. Because a directory could have improved the coordination of reconstruction projects both past and present, this author feels that the creation of a post-conflict directory is something that should be prioritized as early as the planning stages of post-conflict reconstruction.

Case Study Context: The Ugandan Civil War

In the previous article of this series, three potential elements were suggested for a post-conflict directory: a standard list of vocabulary and acronyms, project site data (including, as the security situation permits, maps), and contact information for organizations and individual actors. It is the hope of this author that the three suggested elements of a post-conflict directory covered in the previous article of this series will serve as a springboard for further efforts at program coordination. However, proving the value of such a resource is best done by applying it to a specific case study. As the first article of this series established, an examination of the contextual factors of a specific conflict is a necessary prerequisite to understanding the ramifications that the conflict has on a society. Thus, any examination of reconstruction and reconciliation efforts in northern Uganda must begin with a summary of the civil conflict itself.

Historical Context

The northern region of Uganda has endured civil unrest since the early 1980s. Called by many names, such as the Luwero War, the Ugandan Civil War, or the Ugandan Bush War, the period between 1981 and 1986 was marked with grave unrest and much violence as guerilla warfare was waged by Yoweri Museveni's National Resistance Army (NRA) against the government of Milton Obote, and later the government of Tito Okello (Brynes, 1990). During this time period, it is estimated that up to 500,000 people were killed (Brynes, 1990) and approximately 400,000 were displaced from their homes (Pike, 2010). Though nearly defeated, the NRA's movement gradually gained momentum, and in December 1985, Tito Okello's regime signed the Nairobi Agreement with the NRA. Despite this peace deal, peace efforts broke down almost instantaneously, and when the smoke cleared, Tito Okello's government lay in ruins, Museveni was president, and the NRA was transformed into the national army (Brynes, 1990).

Immense problems of reconstruction awaited Museveni's regime, compounded by the fact that several different rebel groups had sprung up in wake of the civil war. Though the players shifted, with the NRA and Museveni now in the role of governing authorities, civil war continued. Political violence intensified throughout the 1990s, culminating in the 1998 and 1999 bombings of restaurants, nightclubs, and other public places that catered to a civilian clientele (Pike, 2010). With rebel activity concentrated in the northern and western areas of Uganda, President Museveni used the military to strike back at two major rebel groups, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) and Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). The human costs of this war were indeed high, as thousands of children were abducted by the LRA and the ADF to serve as porters or soldiers and as rural inhabitants, including more than one million Acholi, were forced to flee to protective camps. With the country's economy already in turmoil due to widespread destruction and unrest, the situation worsened as billions of dollars of the government's budget were funneled into military spending. Future production was halted as crops remained unplanted, and widespread hunger became a serious problem, particularly in the districts of Gulu, Pader, and Kitgum, where 48 people were hacked to death on July 25, 2002. Further reports of the sheer brutality on the part of the rebel armies, with eyewitness accounts of babies flung against trees or senior citizens murdered with machetes, galvanized public outcry against the rebel groups, who had claimed to be fighting to correct perceived discrimination against the Acholi people group (Parker, 2008).

This latest brutal attack disrupted the planned peace talks that were to be brokered by local religious leaders. In February of 2003, neighboring Sudan agreed to allow Ugandan troops to enter the country for the purpose of attacking the LRA leaders who had fled across the border. By this time, the ADF army had fragmented, leaving the LRA the major remaining threat to the Ugandan government. Ugandan troops were able to destroy key LRA bases in southern Sudan and cut off main sources of food and military supplies, significantly crippling LRA strength (Pike, 2010). Though the government had signed the Ugandan Amnesty Act in 2000, many rebel soldiers were distrustful of its promise to allow societal integration of former rebel soldiers, and violence continued to surge in the early 2000 (Parker, 2008). In November of 2003, United Nations Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Humanitarian Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland described the situation as "the biggest, forgotten neglected humanitarian emergency in the world today" (Parker, 2008, 118). In October of 2005, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued arrest warrants for LRA leader Joseph Kony and four other LRA leaders for crimes ranging from forced abductions, sexual abuse of minors, and mutilation of civilians (Pike, 2010). By 2006, LRA representatives agreed to take part in peace talks with the Ugandan government, and a landmark truce was signed in 2006 (Wasswa, 2007). Unfortunately, this ceasefire broke down almost immediately, as both sides violated their predetermined promises. Additional peace plans were attempted, but these talks remained at an impasse throughout 2007, mainly due to Joseph Kony's refusal to appear and sign a peace agreement (Pike, 2010). As Kony and other rebel soldiers retreated across international borders but continued to launch attacks, the Ugandan Civil War shifted from a regional war to an international war involving the Uganda, Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Central African Republic. As the last remaining rebel army from the Ugandan Civil War, the LRA remains a threat to civilians, as they continue attacking remote locations and targeting civilian populations through campaigns of killing, raping, mutilating, kidnapping, and looting. Despite this violence, experts claim that the LRA poses no real threat to any of the governments of the countries that they operate in, and the United States White House has declared that the LRA has "no agenda other than its own survival" (The United States White House, 2010).

Case Study Analysis: Reconstruction Efforts in Uganda

Though sporadic violence is still occurring today, reconstruction efforts began in northern Uganda in the mid-1990s. When these programs began, it was recognized that recovery would have to be targeted through many sectors of society. In addition to the high human toll that the war had levied on the population through mass murder and civilian displacement, much of the country lay in economic ruin. For instance, Matovu and Stewart conducted a household survey and found that two-thirds of respondents had lost all assets, as their homes were unroofed or bombed, as their possessions were looted, and as their prized cattle were stolen by soldiers (2001). Though the challenges to reconciliation and reconstruction were plentiful, many in the international community have judged such efforts to be primarily successful. Yet the apparent rapidity of reconstruction must be somewhat qualified, as per capita income had barely regained its 1970s level by the late 1990s, and as 60% of the population asserted that they were still worse off than before the war in a variety of ways (Collier et al., 2003).

An analysis of three internal evaluations from some of the most established organizations at work in northern Uganda offer validation for the usefulness of a post-conflict directory in this location and in other post-conflict societies as well.

Despite the challenges of reconstruction that have continued to arise throughout the past fifteen years, the fact remains that a myriad of reconstruction and reconciliation programs have been enacted in northern Uganda. The sheer number of efforts makes it impossible to discuss each program here. However, an analysis of three internal evaluations from some of the most established organizations at work in northern Uganda offers validation for the usefulness of a post-conflict directory in this location and in other post-conflict societies as well.

The World Bank's Northern Uganda Reconstruction Project (NURP)

One of the earliest attempts at northern Uganda reconstruction by the international community was the World Bank's Northern Uganda Reconstruction Project (NURP), lasting from 1992-1997 (Kreimer et al., 2000). The intent of this program was to rectify the imbalance of recovery assistance available to remote rural northern districts. The project's ambitions were high, as it was created to be a regionally targeted, multisectoral program that enveloped ten northern projects. NURP additionally required the cooperation of seven different sectors, thus necessitating "massive management" (Kreimer et al., 2000, 55). Unfortunately, evaluations of the success of NURP have been less than encouraging. Criticism arose from a variety of sources on a variety of issues, but much of the major disapproval can be traced back to issues of coordination. First of all, district authorities were extremely critical of implementation delays, a truth that the World Bank itself has acknowledged when it admitted that up to "two years [were] lost" due to the need for faster dispersal of services (Kreimer et al., 2000, 55). Complaints also arose over the lack of information about project requirements of local inputs, and procurement procedures were "universally described as a 'nightmare' and 'very frustrating'" (Kreimer et al., 2000, 56). Finally, many local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) criticized the World Bank for not taking advantage of the already-existing networks of local organizations and actors, stating that doing so would have drastically decreased the internal corruption associated with this project. Internal evaluations of NURP by World Bank staff have acknowledged each of these shortcomings, noting that they stemmed from coordination difficulties:

"Coordination of activities under NURP became increasingly problematic for the Bank, especially as the growing conflict was drawing in more donors and aid agencies provided emergency relief in the region. Existing Bank staff working on NURP were concerned about donors 'tripping over one another' but did not have the capacity to address this supervening demand" (Kreimer et al., 2000, 57).

An analysis of NURP's post-conflict efforts in northern Uganda demonstrates just how dangerous a lack of reconstruction synchronization can be, as "various sources claim that [due to] lack of coordination, NURP may have contributed to an escalation of the conflict" in the early 2000s."
- Alcira Kreimer, Paul Collier, Collin S. Scott, and Margaret Arnold

Preventing the types of coordination difficulties associated with NURP from happening again is urgent, particularly given that the World Bank's own assessment of this project stated that "various sources claim that [due to] lack of coordination, NURP may have contributed to an escalation of the conflict" in the early 2000s (Kreimer et al., 2000, 57). Though the problems associated with NURP are certainly multidimensional, an examination of each of the major critiques associated with this project demonstrates that having a post-conflict field directory that contained the elements discussed earlier in this paper could have improved each of the problematic areas. If the World Bank had utilized a post-conflict directory during the planning and implementation stages of NURP, it seems likely that the dispersal of services could have been achieved in a time frame much shorter than two years. Having a frequently updated list of local, credible organizations and actors could have allowed the World Bank to bypass many of the cultural challenges that derailed early attempts at coordination, as these local, on-the-ground agencies could have helped to smooth NURP's transition from the planning to the implementation stage. In addition to helping the actual implementation of NURP by utilizing already-existing organizational resources in the area, the use of a directory would have also quelled the criticism that NGOs were uninformed and unwelcome to participate in World Bank efforts. The World Bank has additionally admitted that internal corruption within NURP slowed the project down quite a bit. Though the inclusion of more actors cannot guarantee that such corruption would not have occurred, it very well may have led to increased accountability as multiple agencies may have had a better idea of what their counterparts from other organizations were doing with their time and resources. At the very least, the project location map, the standard list of vocabulary and acronyms, and the frequently updated agency status reports of a post-conflict directory could have solved the problem of donors and projects "tripping over one another," as each agency increased its understanding of the types of projects being carried out across northern Uganda.

USAID's Northern Uganda Transition Initiative

Even reconstruction projects that have been deemed successful would benefit from the creation of a post-conflict directory.

Other internal assessments of post-conflict reconstruction efforts in northern Uganda have trumpeted higher rates of success. Yet this author believes that even these efforts could be strengthened by the use of a post-conflict directory. For instance, in the 2008 annual report of USAID's Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI), the six-month-old Northern Uganda Transition Initiative (NUTI) is discussed (Mamula, 2008). This initiative, which seeks to aid with recovery and development activities, describes its "number of noticeable successes" (Mamula, 2008, 3).

An analysis of each of the achievements mentioned revealed that each success required the coordination of a variety of organizations spread across different sectors, such as the partnership between the Lalogi Farmers Forum, the National Agricultural Organization, and USAID, which resulted in the distribution of ox plows and agricultural tools and the rebuilding of grain storage facilities. The success of such partnerships has led USAID/OTI to prioritize a strengthening of working relationships among local governments, international organizations, donors, NGOs, and other U.S. Government-funded projects. Though the OTI experienced success with coordination between the Lalogi local farmers and the government of Uganda, such programs will become more complicated as more actors are included. The use of a directory would prove helpful in allowing each of the parties to remain on the same page, thus making sure that each project is not contradicting, overlapping, or competing with other projects in the area. The inclusion of a standard list of vocabulary and attempts to create a common vision statement for northern Uganda may also mend concerns by USAID/OTI that some of the projects currently being implemented "lack a coherent focus" (Mamula, 2008, 1). Additionally, the very act of creating this directory will improve inter-agency communication and allow for additional input by more parties, which will in turn address the other major USAID/OTI concern that "the failure to coordinate and communicate [program] objectives...has left local leaders confused" (Mamula, 2008, 1).

The U.S. State Department's Transitional Assessment

One final advantage of a post-conflict directory for northern Uganda reconstruction is its potential to channel resources more efficiently, thus preventing a concentration of all available resources across one or two districts. The need to prevent such a concentration of resources is apparent from the U.S. State Department's examination of the improvements in post-conflict efforts from 2006-2008 (The U.S. Department of State, 2008). The U.S. State Department reports that although vast improvements have been made since 2006, the major challenge for northern Uganda centers around efforts to transition reconstruction efforts from emergency humanitarian relief to sustainable development programs without losing the gains made over the past few years. The shift to development activities will require a transitioning of the major players involved in Uganda's reconstruction, and the availability of a post-conflict directory could prove invaluable as new agencies and actors step into more prominent roles.

As reconstruction efforts in Uganda transition from emergency aid to sustainable development programs, the availability of a post-conflict directory could prove invaluable as new agencies and actors step into more prominent roles.

These new agencies would benefit greatly from knowledge of the specific projects that have been previously initiated in various northern Uganda regions, and an accessible way to contact specific on-the-ground organizations would be helpful in disseminating information about the lessons learned over the past decade and a half. As mentioned previously, this directory could also be used by organizations to ensure that resources are spread among the various northern Ugandan communities. The U.S. State Department's major concern with current reconstruction efforts is that "if anything, northern Uganda suffers from too much outside intervention" (The U.S. Department of State, 2008). Such apprehension must be taken very seriously, as Paris notes that "too much, too little, or the wrong type of coordination could do more harm than good" (2007, 13). The inclusion of a project map in a post-conflict reconstruction directory for Uganda could aid the U.S. State Department's commitment to preserving the gains made over the past fifteen years by allowing organizations to understand which areas of northern Uganda may be prone to too much coordination and which areas are more prone to neglect.

Conclusion

While the creation of a post-conflict directory is certainly not a panacea for the myriad of challenges that post-conflict reconstruction faces, the many ways that it could prove helpful in nations like Uganda should prompt serious rumination by the major organizational players in post-conflict reconstruction. The largest organizations involved in a post-conflict society's reconstruction and reconciliation process, such as the World Bank, the United Nations, or USAID, have a unique opportunity to lead the way for improved coordination and cooperation across multiple spheres as they embrace practical resources like a post-conflict directory. The effects of civil wars and conflicts are complex and multi-dimensional, thus requiring a resolute commitment on the part of the international community to continually seek ways that both conflict prevention and post-conflict reconstruction methods can be improved. Though simple post-conflict directories have been utilized in a variety of conflict and post-conflict zones, this author feels that efforts must be made to expand the creation of such resources to multiple locations. The power to update a directory frequently through modern technological means, as well as the ability to tailor the contents of the directory to the specific context in which it will be used, give this resource the potential to remain extremely flexible across time spans and geographic locations, allowing it to shift and develop as the context requires. Award-winning architect Anthony Lawlor once stated that "flexibility, as displayed by water, is a sign of life, [while] rigidity, its opposite, is an indicator of death." It is the hope of this author that such a resource would aid the architects of peacebuilding programs, as increased flexibility and coordination cause positive changes to flow into post-conflict societies and circumvent the logistical problems that are as helpful to post-conflict efforts as gangrene is to a formerly functioning limb.

 

References

Brynes, Rita, ed. 1990. Uganda: A Country Study. Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress.

Collier, Paul, V.L. Elliot, Harvard Hegre, Anke Hoeffler, Marta Reynal-Querol, and Nicholas Sambanis. 2003. Breaking the Conflict Trap: Civil War and Development Policy. Washington, D.C.: The World Bank.

Hoeffler, Anke, and Martha Reynal-Querol. 2003. "Measuring the Cost of Conflict." Unpublished manuscript, Centre for the Study of African Economies. Oxford: Oxford University.

Kreimer, Alcira, Paul Collier, Colin S. Scott, and Margaret Arnold. 2000. Uganda: Post-Conflict Reconstruction. Washington, D.C.: World Bank Publications.

Mack, Andrew. 2006. Human Security Brief 2006. Vancouver: Human Security Centre, University of British Columbia. www.humansecuritybrief.info/

Mamula, Megan, and OTI/Uganda. 2008. "USAID/OTI Uganda Annual Summary Report." USAID/OTI Reports, January 2008 – December 2008. http://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/PDACM51 5.pdf.

Matovu, John Mary and Frances Stewart. 2001. "Uganda: The Social and Economic Costs of Conflict." In, War and Underdevelopment: Country Experiences, edited by Frances Stewart and Valpy Fitzgerald, Chapter 9. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Paris, Roland. 2007. "Understanding the 'Coordination Problem' in Postwar State-Building." Unpublished manuscript, School of Public and International Affairs. Ottawa: University of Ottawa.

Parker, Philip M. 2008. Uganda: Webster's Quotations, Facts, and Phrases. San Diego: ICON Group International, Inc.

Pike, John, ed. 2010. "Uganda Civil War." GlobalSecurity.org, March 8, 2010. http://www.globalsecurity. org/military/world/war/uganda.htm

The U.S. Department of State. 2008. "Northern Uganda: What a Difference Two Years Makes." United States Virtual Presence Post. http://northernuganda.usvpp.g ov/nu_whatadifference.html

The United States White House, Office of the Press Secretary. 2010. "Statement by the President on the Signing of the Lord's Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009." Press Release, May 24, 2010. http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/statemen t-president-signing-lords-resistance-army-disarmament-and-northern-uganda-r

Wasswa, Henry. "Hopes of Ending Uganda's Twenty-Year War Fade." Monsters and Critics News, February 28, 2007. http://www.monstersandcritics.com/news/africa/features/a rticle_1270834.php/Hopes_of_ending_Uganda_s_20-year_war_fade