Update of conflict and peace analysis for the Northern Uganda Shea Nut Project in Otuke county of Lira district

Peace is coming

The Northern Uganda Shea Nut Project is a shea nut exporting project, implemented by the Export Promotion of Organic Products from Africa (EPOPA) and supported by SIDA. The project involves an association of about 1500 women shea nut collectors in northern Lira district, who sell the nuts they collect to ALCODE, a processing NGO in Lira town, where the nuts are processed into shea butter. KM International, an import/export company in Kampala, then exports the shea butter to the cosmetics market in Europe.

In December 2005 a peace and conflict impact assessment was conducted to outline the issues causing division or tensions in Lira and possible contributors to peace. These issues were then considered in the context of the Shea Nut Project.

This updated conflict assessment is a follow-up study to the more extensive assessment conducted in December 2005 and is drawn mainly from the perceptions of those living and working in Lira. It tries to focus specifically on Otuke county - where the nuts are collected by the Rwot Ber group of women - as security issues are different in Otuke compared to central and south Lira. Three days of field research was conducted in July 2006, including one focus group with the women shea nut collectors and the local leaders from Otuke and interviews with International NGOs, the UN and district officials in Lira town.

The initial peace and conflict impact study conducted in December 2005 found that overall the Shea Nut project will have a positive impact for families in Otuke, although the safety of the women collectors emerged as the key central concern.

This report should be read as a follow on from the final report submitted in December 2005. In the 2005 report there is an extensive outline of the conflict context in Uganda and in Lira and therefore this will not be repeated here. It is certainly unlikely that most of the longer term, structural causes of tensions have changed over 6 months and this report does not revisit those issues.

Since the last study however, the overall conflict context in Lira has shifted and it seems as if the security situation has improved dramatically since January 2006. There seems to be a reduction in LRA movements and the UPDF appear to be following up on reports of LRA sightings more aggressively. As a result, IDPs are beginning to move out to their villages for cultivating. They are still wary of moving back permanently - they go back for several days but will not bring their children or possessions back with them yet. This return to villages is uneven in Lira; the District Disaster Management Committee reports that the south and central parts of Lira show an almost 90% return whereas in northern Lira (which includes Otuke and the Shea Nut Project) the return is as low as 20%.

The level of LRA infiltration has reduced and so have the number of abductions and killings - except for Erute North and Otuke counties, which remain dangerous with LRA activities from Gulu and Pader. There are reports of isolated cases of killings and abductions. The movements of LRA are now random and fluid in these areas, and their attacks, abductions and killings in rural areas in the above mentioned areas are still a grave cause for concern for IDPs who are considering return to their homes. However, in the focus group with local women collectors and local and camp leaders from Otuke, raids from the Karamajong were cited as the most frequent threats to their security. The dominant discourse among IDPs was the issue of feeling secure enough to return home and what potential new conflicts might arise as a result of the return and resettlement process.

For the women shea nut collectors, their safety during collection season still remained the greatest threat to their personal security.