Interview with Aggrey Kibet, Programme Co-ordinator at ActionAid Uganda
What is your job at ActionAid?
I work as a Programme Co-ordinator at ActionAid Uganda. I work in Kapchorwa district, eastern Uganda, amongst communities that have been affected by pastoral tribal conflicts related to violent, organised cattle thefts and raids.
Can you tell us about the village of Giriki, one of the areas where you are working?
Giriki is a remote, rural community of around 7000 people belonging to the Sabiny tribe. Giriki is sandwiched between two opposing tribal areas containing people from the Pokot and the Karimojong tribes. For 4 decades, and until recently, the people of Giriki were caught in the middle of conflict between the tribes. It is estimated that around 34,000 people were displaced, over 1000 people (mainly women and children) killed and over 700,000 herds of cattle stolen.
What were the Pokot and Karomiya tribes fighting about?
They were fighting for cattle. Having cattle among these pastoral groups means wealth and status. It also enables young people to complete certain rites of passage. For example, a young man from Karimojong was expected to pay about 1000 herds of cattle as a dowry to his bride’s family. This large number of cattle was not available in the community so it meant he ‘had’ to steal, or ‘cattle rustle’ as it is known locally.
How was the fighting resolved?
In 2006 the Ugandan government initiated a forceful disarmament programme which saw over 500,000 firearms taken from tribal communities in Giriki and Pokot.
How did ActionAid come to be involved in the Giriki community?
In 2007 ActionAid began peace building work in Giriki, initially by bringing elders from the 3 tribes together for talks.
Over time this peace building work helped many displaced people gain the confidence to come back to their homes in Giriki.
This led us to work on shelter. We have resettled 165 families (or 1,320 people, based on an average of 8 people per household) who had been displaced by fighting.
In 2009 we opened a new local health centre, in response to a need for access to medical services. Before that the nearest hospital was 64km away, which meant many women were dying unnecessarily in childbirth.
In March 2011 we opened a new school in Giriki, called the Greek River school, to provide an education for 700 children in the community who were out of school.
Can you tell us about the new school project you’ve been working on in Giriki?
The new school was built together with the community to address the need for education for the children of Giriki. Their nearest school used to be 36 kilometres away - a 4 hour walk for adults.
The new school has a block of 8 classrooms, toilets and a teachers’ house. We also run a school feeding programme.
How do you ensure the new school will be sustainable in the long term, i.e. once ActionAid has stopped working in the area?
We have worked with the community to get government recognition for the new school. We provided the initial capital investment needed for the buildings, but the government has now taken over the running of the school. It has recruited 12 teachers who will access government payroll and it has also provided learning materials.
We will continue to work to mobilise communities to understand their rights as enshrined in the constitution, and to empower them to demand other social services from government.
This is for the future!
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