Protecting the Right to Life of the Internally Displaced: An Examination of Encampment and Its Effects on the Communities in Unyama and Koro Sub-Counties in Gulu District, Northern Uganda
KeywordsAfrican Languages and Societies
Human Rights Law
Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration
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AbstractThis study examines the period of encampment in Northern Uganda, as related to the Lord’s Resistance Army conflict, and the effects that encampment has had on communities in Gulu District through present day. The objectives of this study include; to examine the process of displacement, to analyze whether displaced persons were accorded the right to security during the encampment period, to analyze the effects that encampment has had on communities during the return period, through present day, and to examine the ways in which various actors have attempted to address such effects. This analysis is conducted through a human rights lens, in which it is determined whether the right to life was upheld during the displacement and return periods. For the purpose of this research, the right to life is interpreted as both the right to be alive and the right to be able to live a dignified and meaningful life. The findings of this research also fit into the current international debate on whether displaced persons should be protected on a national or international level. This research was conducted over a four week period in Gulu District, Northern Uganda. A case study design was employed to examine the impacts of encampment on two particular communities in Gulu District in Unyama and Koro Sub-Counties. A total of 74 respondents, including community members, non-governmental organization employees, government and military officials, and scholars, were interacted with for the purpose of data collection. The primary methods used for data collection included interview, group interview, focus group discussion, and observation. For ethical consideration, this research was approved by a local review board, as well as the Ugandan National Council for Science and Technology. The findings of this research determined that the policy of displacement issued by the government of Uganda was not made in the interest of civilian protection, but was rather a strategic military strategy to defeat the rebel insurgents. Subsequently, during the encampment period, civilians were not accorded the right to physical, food, or educational security, as their right to life and right to live a dignified life were jeopardized due to the government’s unwillingness to prioritize civilian protection. Since civilian property and lives were not protected during encampment, it has created negative impacts on civilians from the return period, through present day. Such impacts include poverty, dependency, and unemployment due to the loss of educational opportunities for many during encampment. Although government and nongovernmental organizations have attempted to address some of these negative impacts on 7 society, there continues to remain a significant amount of work to be done to ensure that civilians can engage in personal and economic development for the wellbeing of society as a whole. Indeed, the issues of poverty and high levels of unemployment in Gulu District today must be addressed by the Government of Uganda in the near future, as such issues, if they remain unaddressed, have the potential to cause instability in Northern Uganda, as well as the whole of Eastern Africa. The findings in this research indicate that, on an international scale, there continues to exist gaps in the international system regarding the protection of internally displaced persons. Although there exists a non-legally binding document regarding the protection of internally displaced persons, without being legally binding, it will likely not have much of an impact on coercing states to adequately uphold the rights of internally displaced persons as outlined in the Principles. Indeed, if this document had been legally binding during the Ugandan instance of displacement, it would have likely compelled the government to place more of a priority on civilian protection and the protection of their rights.