Mak-RIF: CHUSS researchers seek lasting solutions to conflicts among forced migrants & host communities

Makerere University researchers have appealed to Government to revise the 70/30% policy for distribution and delivery of services as well as other resources amongst refugees and host communities. In their study titled, “Building bridges and creating social cohesion for harmonious co-existence between forced migrants and host communities in Bidibidi Refugee Settlement, Yumbe District and Kiryandongo IDP Settlement, The research team: Dr Samson Barigye (L), Dr Veneranda Mbabazi (R) and Dr Charlotte Karungi Mafumbo disseminating the research findingsin Kiryandongo District” the researchers namely; Dr Samson Barigye (Principal Investigator), Dr Veneranda Mbabazi (Co-Principal Investigator), Dr Charlotte Karungi Mafumbio and Mr. Umar Sserunjogi call for a 50/50 ratio for both communities as a measure to minimize conflicts. According to the researchers, the 70/30% policy for distribution of resources seemed to be breeding some conflicts as the host communities complained about losing resources to refugees.  

Funded by the Government of Uganda through the Makerere Research and Innovations Fund (Mak-RIF), the research project sought to explore approaches and strategies for creating social cohesion and harmonious existence amongst forced migrants and host communities, with special focus on Bidibidi Refugee Settlement in Yumbe District and Kiryandongo Refugee and IDP Settlements in Kiryandongo District. Specific objectives of the project included mapping and analyzing the state of conflict and harmonious co-existence between forced migrants (refugees in Bidibidi Refugee Settlement in Yumbe District, and refugees and IDPs in Kiryandongo District); creating awareness about contexts experiencing forced migration with a view to influence policy and practice; and building the capacity of 50 key stakeholders in peace building and conflict sensitivity programming in forced migration situations.

The study was conducted using qualitative research methods. Key informants purposively selected based on their roles, experiences and knowledge of the conflict resolution dynamics in the refugee and IDP settlements included 20 (8 female and 12 male) political leaders, LC officials, civil servants, NGO and CSO workers, security officers, refugee leaders, elders and religious leaders.  A total of 80 people including refugees, IDPs and host community members participated in the Focus Group Discussions.

The Principal of CHUSS, Dr Josephine Ahikire addressing participantsThe study established that the main conflicts were between forced migrants (refugees and IDPs) whereas others were between the forced migrants and host communities. Among the South Sudanese refugees in Bidibidi Refugee Settlement, ethno-political factors were found to be responsible for the rampant ethno-political conflicts. Other obstacles to social cohesion included; resource-based conflicts as a result of limited access to natural resources in the settlements, the unclear terms of use of land by the refugees, economic conflicts largely attributed to poverty, and lack of viable livelihoods for refugees and host communities. The conflicts were also triggered by lack of quality social services such as water, education, health care and housing, as well as perceptions of inequitable distribution of some of the services across refugee settlements. Other causes of conflicts included mental trauma suffered by the refugees and lack of adequate and timely information provided to refugees and host communities. According to the research findings, the conflicts were further complicated by the fact that some of the settlements host different ethnic groups and nationalities. “Kiryandongo settlement hosts people displaced by war in South Sudan, as well as Ugandans displaced by landslides in Bududa district and those displaced from Acholi Sub-region by the Lord’s Resistance Army. The complexities and different ethnic identities in this area call for a unique model of building bridges and creating social cohesion for harmonious co-existence between the forced migrants and host communities,” the researchers note.

Disseminating the findings to the Makerere University community and members of the public on 4th June 2021, the research team called on stakeholders to establish mechanisms for addressing conflicts in refugee settlements and host communities. In addition to equal distribution of resources, the researchers noted that there was need to strengthen the security and justice systems in the settlements. The researchers also Dr Helen Nambalirwa Nkabala represented Mak-RIFemphasized the need to empower local leaders, and stakeholders in refugee management to understand the rationale of promoting peaceful co-existence among the host and refugee communities. “Setting up roles of peace ambassadors in the refugee and host communities would ensure sustainable peace in the settlements,” the researchers advised.

The researchers also appealed to the Government to strengthen and implement relevant laws to protect the environment in the refugee settlements and host communities to avoid conflicts that may result from environmental degradation.

As part of the project contribution towards creating social cohesion and harmonious existence, the research team trained 25 traditional and religious leaders in Kiryandongo and Yumbe districts in conflict resolution and conflict sensitivity programming in forced migration situations. The team also trained Local Councils and Refugee Welfare Councils, and produced a policy brief with recommendations for creating harmonious co-existence in refugee and host communities.

The dissemination seminar was graced by the Principal College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Dr Josephine Ahikire who commended the Department of Religion and Peace Studies for being at the forefront of creating knowledge on issues regarding peace building and conflict resolution. She specifically applauded the research team for the great piece of work that would largely contribute to efforts aimed at promoting lasting peace in the refugee settlements. Dr Ahikire thanked the Government of Uganda for the support extended towards research activities at Makerere University. “The Government is much appreciated for leaving the Fund open to any kind of research as long as it aligns with the country’s national development priorities,” she said.

Some of the participantsThe representative from Mak-RIF, Dr Helen Nambalirwa Nkabala appreciated the research team for the great piece of work. She appreciated the Government of Uganda for the enormous support that has resulted into 522 projects tackling different development challenges.

The dissemination event was moderated by Mr. Isaac Tibasiima from the Department of Literature, Makerere University.

See project summary and policy brief in the attachments below.

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