The Legacy of Violence in Uganda and the Role of the Church towards Peace

by Robert Butele (Author)
©2021 Thesis 482 Pages


The Book asserts that: Violence at Family level, Clan level, upto State level is a reality in Africa in general and Uganda in particular. In systematic and critical exposure of the history of violence in Uganda using secondary sources, interviews and personal experience, the author comes to the conclusion that although the period before colonialism up to 1894 and the colonial period 1894-1962 were not without violence, the worst and institutionalised forms of violence in Uganda occurred after independence 1962-1985, leading to loss of lives of hundreds of thousands of Ugandans and destruction of nature and property. The Author agrees violence is a complex topic and still exists to date. Pointing fingers to the past is not enough, every Ugandan now should, renounce violence and adress the named causes of violence in Uganda. Based on the magisterial teachings of the Church, particularly of Pope John Paul II, the deliberations of the second Synod of African Bishops 2009 and the pastoral letters of Uganda Catholic Bishops, The author calls for Reconciliation, Justice and Peace in Uganda as opposed to violence. (Germany).

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Dedication
  • Acknowledgement
  • Table of Contents
  • List of Abbreviations
  • General Introduction
  • A Violent Conflicts in Africa in General
  • I Introduction
  • II Violent conflicts in Africa in general
  • III Inventing war
  • IV Emergence and support of violent conflicts
  • V Conclusion
  • B The Legacy of Violence in Uganda
  • I Introduction
  • II The pre-colonial period (Uganda up to 1894)
  • III The colonial period (1894–1962)
  • 1 Inequality and violence in Uganda
  • 1.1 Economic marginalisation of Africans
  • 1.2 Uganda and the industrialised world
  • 1.3 Uganda’s relations with her neighbours
  • 1.4 Rural/Urban inequality
  • 1.5 Regional inequality
  • 2 The representation of the British colonial rule in the historiography of Uganda
  • 2.1 Absolute power
  • 2.2 Exploitation
  • 2.3 Divide and rule
  • 2.4 Uneven development
  • 2.5 Crisis in the administration
  • 2.5.1 Undermanned
  • 2.5.2 Overburdened
  • 2.5.3 Consequences: A “lack of government”
  • IV Violence in post colonial Uganda (1962–1985)
  • 1 From a negotiated to an imposed constitution 1962–1966
  • 1.1 Obote and the UPC
  • 1.2 Buganda at independence
  • 1.3 The struggle to control the UPC: Right and centre versus left
  • 1.4 Prelude to Nakulabye
  • 1.5 Nakulabye
  • 1.6 Centre against right
  • 1.7 The “Obote Revolution” of 1966
  • 1.8 The defeat of the neotraditionalists at Mengo, 24th May 1966
  • 2 From civilian to military dictatorship 1966–1971
  • 2.1 Obote’s economic policies
  • 2.2 The control of ideas
  • 2.3 Continued divisions within UPC
  • 2.4 The end of the regime
  • 3 Idi Amin and the politics of survival, 1971–1979
  • 3.1 Capitalising on Obote’s mistakes
  • 3.2 Exploitation of religious cleavages
  • 3.3 Consolidation of regimes military base
  • 3.4 Government by terror
  • 3.4.1 Repressive organs
  • 3.4.2 Absence of the rule of law
  • 3.4.3 Disregard for human rights
  • 3.4.4 Official complicity
  • 3.5 Amin’s economic policies
  • 3.6 The expulsion of Asians 1972
  • 3.7 Opposition to the Rule of Idi Amin
  • 3.8 The Liberation War
  • 4 Weak governments and social chaos, 1979–85
  • 4.1 The Brief Lule Period, April–June 1979
  • 4.2 Binaisa’s attempt, June 1979 to May 1980
  • 4.3 The military coup, May 1980
  • 4.4 Reversing the voters mandate: The rigged elections of 1980
  • 5 Four and one-half years of brute violence, 1980–85
  • 5.1 Mass killings of civilians
  • 5.2 Military operations in civilian areas
  • 5.3 Abductions
  • 5.4 Killing of elites and prominent people
  • 5.5 The agents of death
  • 5.5.1 The soldiers
  • 5.5.2 UPC functionaries
  • 5.5.3 Roadblocks
  • 6 Undermining the rule of law
  • 6.1 The administration of justice
  • 6.2 The secret police
  • 6.3 The use of torture
  • 6.4 Demoralisation of the civil police
  • 6.5 Imprisonment without trial
  • 6.6 Prisons and police cells
  • 6.7 Imprisonment of Juveniles in ordinary prisons
  • 6.8 The killing of prisoners
  • 6.9 Desecration of holy places
  • 6.10 The suppression of protest
  • 7 The struggle against Obote
  • 7.1 The National Resistance Movement
  • 7.2 The Uganda Freedom Movement
  • 7.3 The Uganda National Rescue Front
  • 7.4 The Uganda national Liberation Front (UNLF) Anti-Dictatorship (UNLF-AD)
  • 7.5 The Federal Democratic Movement of Uganda
  • 7.6 Military munity: The second fall of Obote, July 1985
  • 8 The NRA overthrows Tito Okello Lutwa-January 1986
  • 8.1 Victimisation of ethnic groups
  • 8.2 Revenge against West Nilers
  • 8.3 The suppression of Buganda peasants
  • 8.3.1 The Luwero Triangle
  • 8.3.2 Destruction of infrastructure
  • 8.4 The eviction of Banyarwanda
  • 8.5 The displacement of the Karamojong
  • 9 Violence and conflicts in Uganda from 1986 up to present
  • 9.1 Political upheavals, spirituality and guerrilla war
  • 9.2 Joseph Kony and the LRA
  • 9.3 War and counter-insurgency strategies
  • 9.4 Displacement and abduction
  • 9.4.1 Living in IDP camps
  • 9.4.2 Living with the LRA
  • 9.4.3 Some experiences of abductions
  • 9.5 Other conflicts in Uganda from 1986 to present
  • 9.6 Conclusion
  • C Theories, Causes, Nature of Violence and Approaches to Terminating Violence
  • I Introduction
  • II Theories
  • 1 Contingency theory
  • 2 Inherency theory
  • 3 Relative-deprivation theory
  • 4 New wars
  • 5 Resource scarcity
  • 6 Resource abundance
  • 7 Ethnicity
  • 8 Inequality
  • 9 Greed versus grievance
  • III Causes of violence in Uganda
  • 1 Social inequality
  • 2 Sub-states and ethnic groups
  • 3 Flimsy mechanisms for conflict resolution
  • 4 Ethnic and religious factionalism
  • 5 Absence of an indigenous property owning class
  • 6 Decrease in national production
  • 7 Parochial, weak, and poorly educated leaders
  • 8 The language problem
  • IV The actual nature of violence in Uganda
  • V Different approaches to terminating violent conflicts
  • 1 Conflict settlement and conflict resolution
  • 2 Conflict transformation
  • 3 Traditional conflict management in Africa
  • 3.1 Limits of traditional conflict management
  • 4 Dealing with the past of violent conflicts
  • 4.1 Transitional justice
  • 4.2 Reconciliation
  • 4.3 Unification
  • 4.4 The impact of transitional justice, reconciliation and unification on transforming violent conflicts
  • 5 Transitional justice mechanisms in Uganda
  • 5.1 Accountability
  • 5.1.1 Accountability gap
  • 5.1.2 Means of accountability
  • 5.2 Reconciliation
  • 5.2.1 The need for reconciliation
  • 5.2.2 The challenges of reconciliation
  • 5.2.3 Avenues to reconciliation
  • 5.3 Amnesty
  • 5.3.1 Perceived benefits
  • 5.3.2 Words of caution
  • 5.3.2 Way forward
  • 5.4 Prosecutions
  • 5.4.1 Prosecutions as a component of Transitional justice
  • 5.4.2 Dissatisfaction with formal justice processes
  • 5.5 Truth-seeking and truth-telling
  • 5.5.1 Anticipated benefits
  • 5.5.2 Potential pitfalls
  • 5.5.3 Way forward
  • 5.6 Traditional justice
  • 5.6.1 State of traditional justice institutions
  • 5.6.2 Perceptions of traditional justice
  • Consistency with cultural values
  • Less corruption
  • More reconciliation
  • 5.6.3 Dissenting voices
  • 5.6.4 Way forward
  • 5.6.5 Complementarity with formal justice system
  • 5.6.6 Complementarity with other transitional justice mechanisms
  • 5.6.7 Practical steps forward
  • 5.7 Reparations
  • 5.7.1 Limitations of current forms of reparations
  • 5.7.2 The need for a comprehensive reparations framework
  • 5.7.3 Beneficiaries
  • 5.7.4 Centres of responsibility
  • 5.7.5 Forms of reparations
  • Compensation
  • Restitution
  • Rehabilitation
  • Satisfaction
  • 5.7.6 Design and implementation of reparations framework
  • 5.8 Psychological support, memorials and memorialisation
  • 5.8.1 Outstanding needs
  • 5.8.2 Recommendations for action
  • 5.8.3 Memorials and memorialisation
  • 5.8.4 Anticipated benefits
  • 5.8.5 Possible pitfalls
  • 5.8.6 Way forward
  • 5.9 Institutional and legal reform
  • 5.9.1 Building inclusive and accountable institutions for good governance
  • 5.9.2 Anti corruption
  • 5.9.3 Institutional reform by sector
  • Executive
  • Parliament
  • Judiciary
  • Local government
  • Prison
  • Police
  • Military
  • Education
  • Health
  • Land
  • Economy
  • 5.9.4 Other areas of reform
  • 5.9.5 Way forward
  • 5.9.6 Conclusion
  • D Peace against Violence
  • I Introduction
  • II Inventing peace
  • III Hermeneutics
  • IV Fusion of horizons
  • V Critique of authenticity
  • VI Remembering and identity
  • VII A hermeneutical framework for analysis
  • VIII The eight aspects of peace spirituality
  • 1 Moral grounding
  • 2 Vision
  • 3 Critique
  • 3.1 Prophecy
  • 3.2 Renunciation
  • 4 Resistance
  • 5 Nonviolence
  • 5.1 Altruism
  • 5.2 Non-retaliation
  • 5.3 Feminist nonviolence
  • 5.4 Alternative technique
  • 6 Conflict resolution and transformation
  • 7 The scope and importance of reconciliation
  • 8 Building a tradition of peace spirituality
  • 8.1 Future prospects of peace spirituality
  • IX Conclusion
  • E The Role of the Church towards Peace
  • I Introduction
  • II The role of the Church
  • 1 To promote justice
  • 2 To promote human rights
  • 3 To promote truth
  • 4 To denounce violence
  • 5 To change structures of sin
  • 6 To promote reconciliation
  • 7 Pope John Paul II on violence
  • 7.1 Pope John Paul’s attitude towards diverse conflict issues (1978–2001)
  • 7.1.1 Speech in Ireland (1979)
  • 7.1.2 Message on the World Day of Peace (1984)
  • 7.1.3 Message on the World Day of Peace (1985)
  • 7.1.4 Speech in Lesotho (1989)
  • 7.1.5 Centesimus Annus (1991)
  • 7.1.6 The Gulf war (1991)
  • 7.1.7 Evangelium Vitae (1995)
  • 7.1.8 Appeal at Angelus on 12
  • 7.1.9 Speech on the 13
  • 7.2 The theological rationale behind the Pope’s pacifist attitudes
  • 7.2.1 The international context has changed
  • 7.2.2 The Popes concept of the human person
  • 7.2.3 The need for a consistent ethic of life
  • 7.2.4 The tragic consequences of war and violence
  • 7.2.5 The spiral of violence never ends
  • 7.2.6 The causes of violence are not inevitable
  • 7.2.7 The end does not justify the means
  • 8 The position of the African synod on violence and peace
  • 8.1 The Church’s response to the inequitable extraction of resources and related violence
  • 8.1.1 Understanding the root causes of Africa’s poverty
  • 8.1.2 The right to use resources and the negation of the African
  • 8.1.3 What the African synod says about Africa’s resources
  • 8.1.4 What would be an adequate response?
  • 8.2 Small Christian communities – promoters of reconciliation, justice and peace
  • 8.2.1 Increasing involvement in justice and peace issues
  • 8.2.2 SCCs as facilitators of reconciliation, justice and peace in Africa
  • 8.3 The word of God as transformative power in reconciling African Christians
  • 8.3.1 Restating the centrality of the “Word” both in scriptures and in Africa
  • 8.3.2 Unfolding two complex notions: The Word of God and reconciliation
  • 8.3.3 The Word of God: A multichannel metaphor
  • 8.3.4 The African notion of reconciliation
  • 8.3.5 How can the Word of God operate to reconcile?
  • 8.4 Violence against women in Africa and recommendations of the second African synod to remedy this violence and promote peace
  • 8.5 The role of the Church in public sphere
  • 8.5.1 Building an ecclesial community in the public sphere
  • 8.5.2 The service of reconciliation, justice and peace – bridging the gap
  • 8.5.3 For the service of Humankind, Koinonia and Diakonia
  • 8.5.4 The Church in democratising societies
  • 9 The role of the Church in Uganda towards peace
  • 10 Conclusion
  • General Conclusion
  • Bibliography

List of Abbreviations


Allied Democratic Forces


Association of Member Episcopal Conferences of Eastern Africa


African Union


Conservative Party


District Commissioner


Democratic Party


European Union


Forum for Democratic Change


Federal Democratic Movement of Uganda


Force Obote Back Again


Front for National Salvation


Former Uganda National Army


Gross National Product


Human Rights Commission


Holy Spirit Movement


Holy Spirit Mobile Forces


International Criminal Court


International Committee for the Red Cross


National Reconciliation and Transitional Justice


Internally Displaced Persons


International Monetary Fund


Kings African Riffles


Kabaka Yekka


Local Council


Local Government


Lord’s Resistance Army


Member of Parliament


Non Governmental Organisation


National Resistance Army


National Resistance Movement


People’s Redemption Army


Peace, Recovery and Development Plan


Resident District Commissioner


Refugee Law Project


Tanzania People’s Defence Force←19 | 20→


Uganda Army


Uganda Federal Democratic Alliance


Uganda Freedom Fighters


Uganda Freedom Movement


United Nations Children’s Emergence Fund


Uganda National Liberation Army


Uganda National Liberation Front


Uganda National Movement


Uganda National Rescue Front


Uganda People’s Army


Uganda People’s Congress


Uganda People’s Defence Forces


Uganda People’s Democratic Movement/Army


Uganda Patriotic Front


Uganda Patriotic Movement


World Health Organisation


West Nile Bank Front

General Introduction

Violence seems to be a reality on day to day basis for no single day passes without us hearing about violence. The Media reports every day about violence, for example, nature catastrophes, wars, terrorism, torture of human beings, killings of human beings, rape, abuse of children, abortion, Hunger, abductions, extortions, intimidations, beatings in homes, blackmail and the list is endless. Many people in this world are already at one point or another, victims of violence. In the human history we already see violence beginning to manifest itself with Cain killing his brother Abel (Gen 4, 1–16), also the story of the flood and arch of Noah is a story of violence. So the Lord said: “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created-and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move on the ground-for I regret that I have made them” (Gen 6, 7). Only Noah who was righteous and just found favour with God, every other creature was destroyed because the earth was spoiled and full of violence in the eyes of God. (Gen 6, 10).

In the Old Testament we see aspects of violence in relation to God. God allowed Satan to test the faith of his righteous servant Job through inflicting a lot of pain on him. Through Moses he killed the Egyptians who were pursuing the Israelites in the red sea. The conquest of Canaan did not go without bloodshed. With the beginning of the new covenant we see Jesus being condemned to death because he was accused of blasphemy by the Jewish leaders of the time, cheered by their subjects and he was brutally crucified and died on the cross and that was nothing but violence.

What Kind of God is this that even allows his son to be condemned to death and brutally crucified on the cross? What Kind of God is this that allows human beings, his own creation and children to fall prey to acts of violence? We have seen monotheistic religions going to war or practicing violence in the name of God. Examples of these are; the crusades of the Catholics, the thirty years of wars among Christians in Europe, the Jihads for Moslems. So we see in the name of religion, a lot of wars have been fought. Here we ask ourselves the question: how dangerous are the religions and how much potential of violence do they have? The monotheistic religions; Judaism, Christianity and Islam who all see Abraham as their father in faith have this potential of violence. Each religion claims to have the absolute truth. In this case who has the absolute truth? This claim of the absolute truth closes the door for the others who have a different view and always fuels violence. The 11th September bombings of the Twin Towers ←21 | 22→in United States of America and all the terrorist bombings and killings show the lack of tolerance and potential of violence in the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. According to the Portuguese winner of the Nobel prise Jose ‘Saramago’: “It is known that without exception all religions do not serve to bring human beings close to one another and promote peace. Religions were and are the reason for the endless sufferings, of Mass killings and awesomely physical and psychological violence, that belong to the darkest chapter of the sufferings of human beings” (J. Saramago’, Im Namen Gottes ist das Schreckliste erlaubt, in: “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung”, 21.09.2001, p. 52).

The world has also experienced two world wars, which were nothing but acts of violence. If every day is full of violence, then I ask myself the question: Is violence inherent in the nature of man? Can we say the human being by his nature is simply a violent being and he cannot otherwise? What are the causes of violence? Is it possible for human beings to live without violence? Or can human beings co-exist peacefully with one another, with Nature and with God? If yes how?

In this work we are going to narrow down to the legacy of violence in Uganda and we shall examine the role of the Church in general and the role of the Church in Uganda in particular towards peace. The work is divided into five main , B, C, D, and E.

In Part A, we shall examine violent conflicts in Africa in General. Can war be invented? If yes how? Our work will show this. We shall also examine the emergency and support of violent conflicts in general.

In , we shall examine the legacy of violence in Uganda. We shall subdivide our work here into three parts: the pre-colonial period (Uganda up to 1884), the colonial Period (Uganda between 1894 and 1962), and the post colonial period. In all these periods violence was and is a reality in Uganda. Our work will show that there was violence in the Pre-colonial Uganda in homes, between clans, tribes and Kingdoms due to differences in opinion, struggle over women, land, pasture, cattle or desire to expand ones dominion. The colonial period also came with violence due to the British system of divide and rule which created divisions and inequality and eventually fuelled violence. However our work will show that the worst part of violence in Uganda came after independence and it was political and institutionalised.

Part C, of our work treats the Theories, Causes, Nature of violence and approaches to terminating violence. In this part, after examining the various theories of violence, we have endeavoured to apply them to Ugandan situation. We have also exposed the actual nature of violence in Uganda. We have treated the different approaches to terminating violent conflicts and how to deal with the ←22 | 23→past of violent conflicts. We have then applied this to Uganda by examining the transitional Justice mechanisms in Uganda.

Our , of the work is dedicated to Peace against Violence. In the first part we have asked ourselves, can peace be invented? If yes how? We have then brought in the aspect of Hermeneutics to help us in this. We then treated critically the eight aspects of peace spirituality.

Part E of our work is dedicated to the role of the Church towards peace. In the first part we examined the role of the universal church in general. Then as a case study of the magisterial teachings, we have examined the teachings and stand of Pope John Paul II on violence and peace. In the second part we saw the stand of the synod of African Bishops on violence and peace based mostly on the second synod of African Bishops with the theme: Reconciliation, Justice and Peace. And the last part we have dedicated to the role of the Church in Uganda towards Peace.

The general conclusion then comes with the results or outcome of this research and with some recommendations for the future.

←24 | 25→

A Violent Conflicts in Africa in General

I Introduction

According to the Human Security Report (HSR) published in 2006, the number of violent conflicts waged around the world has declined since the beginning of the 21st century, and this trend has been by far great in Sub-Sahara Africa1. Even though the number of armed struggles that broke out in the 1990s doubled compared to the previous decade, their termination has increased as well. Significantly, and in contrast to the 1970s and 1980s, many conflicts were ended through settlement rather than victory, which mark a considerable turn. As for the 1990s, the HSR identifies 42 violent conflicts which were ended by negotiation and 23 by victory, as well as 17 negotiated settlements and four victories in the period from 2000 to 2005. Many of these negotiated settlements occurred against the backdrop of UN peacekeeping missions which rapidly expanded at the time. While these numbers are encouraging they do not allow for much triumphalism. Even if settled conflicts last on average three times longer than those which ended by victory, they are nearly twice as likely to start up again within the first five years.

Again the backdrop of these sobering statistics is important to ask how the termination of a violent conflict can lead to a more sustainable peace. One crucial aspect lies in the impact of the termination of conflict on the communities concerned. With special reference to intra-state conflicts in Africa we have in Part C of this work examined the three approaches of settlement, resolution and transformation in order to explore how they link the termination of conflict with a long -term social change. We have also examined the traditional conflict management in Africa for its effectiveness and limits. Dealing with the past of violent conflicts through employing the mechanisms of transitional Justice, reconciliation and Unification to assess their impact on transforming violent conflicts was also of particular interest to us in this section.

II Violent conflicts in Africa in general

In African societies -as in all others- what causes conflict is complex and multi-faceted. According to Egohosa E. Osaghe, at the micro level, conflicts between ←25 | 26→individuals, families and lineages erupt over personal differences and quarrels, marital disputes, rituals or over the competition over scarce resources such as Land and pasture. At the macro level, conflicts often occur between governments and opposition groups as well as on the clan and village level2. Against the backdrop of widespread poverty in Sub-Sahara Africa, conflicts over belonging and identity frequently merge with attempts to control often-scarce economic resources.

Nevertheless, violent conflicts in Africa have undergone significant changes since the end of the colonialism and the accompanying liberation struggles, and they continue to change over time, often in relation to the changing global contexts. Robert Luckham argues that since the 1990s, the scale of violence has increased dramatically, in particular regarding atrocities committed against civilians3. Large scale terror campaigns including killing, rape, displacement and the destruction of living spaces are common characteristics of wars such as in Sudan, Angola, Rwanda, Burundi, Somalia, Sierra Leon and Liberia. In addition to immediate war-related fatalities among combatants and non-combatants, many people die due to the immediate consequences of war, such as poverty and malnutrition, AIDS infections due to rape or poor sanitary conditions during displacement, encampment and detention. Furthermore, For Alex de Waal, conflicts in Africa tend to be geographically unequally distributed, frequently affecting one part of a county or region more than another and they often have either a “war next door” or have a “war before”4. This is tragically exemplified by the war in the DR Congo (1998–2003) in the Great lakes Region, where eight African nations and some 25 armed groups were involved, causing the death of an estimated 4 million people.

Despite much literature on the causes of conflicts in Africa, they remain intractable and difficult to predict5, says Elisabeth Porter. Some analysts according to Mats Berdal and David Malone argue that changes in the working of the global economy after the Cold war have lead to the so called new wars6. They suggest that conflicts are no longer fuelled not only by grievances and a sense of injustice regarding the treatment of a particular social group but also by greed. This greed in the words of Paul Collier and Anke Hoeffer manifests itself in the exploitation ←26 | 27→of natural resources, taxation of humanitarian aid, the funding of combat by Diaspora communities abroad and the like7. Consequently, they argue, waging warfare is less an outbreak of hatred and resentment than an acquisitive desire to maximise gains. Cramer says; it is thus a rational choice8. For Mary Kaldor, other features of “new wars” include the pursuit of identity politics and the exclusive claims to power on the basis of tribe, nation, clan or religious identities, often build on communities that are “invented” rather than “discovered”9. In contrast to the “old wars”, the aim is often no longer the victory on the battlefield, but to create a pure and unified nation. Since with the exemption of Rwanda, this does not necessarily lead to a genocide the terms “ethnocide” and “politicide” have been coined to describe the deliberate destruction of social groups who share either cultural or political characteristics. Darfur in Sudan serves as a sad reminder of what consequences these strategies can have.

Yet, despite the relevance of the concept of “new wars”, the emergence and continuation of civil wars in Africa remains much more complex. In addition to economic gains, the rationale -rather than rationality- to fight is highly dependent on cultural, personal and historical aspects, which cannot be explained by the “new wars” frame work. It is therefore important to understand the role played by social processes in intra-state conflicts. In many cases, they point to a degree of continuity with “old wars” and require a highly nuanced understanding of how various old and new aspects work together to make people take Arms10. Instead of simple explanations, as argued by Paul Richards, violent conflicts must be considered as a social process in which the boundaries between war and peace are constantly negotiated11.War twined aspects of social reality. The occurrence of a violent conflict is deeply embedded in the historical and social continuities that run through a society and that influence the mutual perception of the parties to the conflict12. Consequently, the emergence of violent conflicts has to be situated in the precise Social context from which it emanates13. In Africa, this ←27 | 28→often runs along cleavages introduced by colonial powers. Against the backdrop of limited resources and manpower to fully administer the conquered territory, many colonial administrators opted for a “divide and rule” policy according to which they selected one part of a society, elevated its status and used it to govern the rest of the polity. As a result, this so-called strategy of indirect rule left deep cleavages between privileged and suppressed sections of the population that-in many cases-have not been overcome to date. In the post-independence period, these cleavages often formed the basis of party politics and political alliances, firmly establishing the divisions in the political structure of the societies. In present history, they give rise to the contestation of citizenship rights for some parts of society as well as to power struggles. Among other factors, they lie at the heart of the genocide in Rwanda, as well as the violent conflicts in Uganda, Burundi and Nigeria, to name but a few.

III Inventing war

According to Vivienne Jabri, identities are constructed representations of the “self” in relation to the “other”14. Implicit in this statement are at least two assumptions worth investigating more closely: first, Jabri suggests that identities are not realities waiting to be possessed, but rather they are constructed over space and time, and second, she points to the relationship between identity and difference as the locus of conflict. Regarding the first point, it is central to Jabri’s argument that identities do not derive from biological proclivities, but rather from being situated in a particular discourse. This social and historical context provides “a variety of pre-existing experiences, implicated in human conduct through practical and discursive consciousness” out of which the individual actively selects particular modes of representation15. It is hence not autonomous agency or rational choice that guides the selection; rather it is the individual’s belonging to a spatio-temporal community that defines who she or he is and how she or he acts. In her argument, Jabri borrows from Giddens’s structuration theory that suggests that social practice is ordered across space and time. Again, social action is not the result of the actor’s rational choice, but rather derives from her properties, in the form of “rules and resources, or sets of transformation relations, organised as properties of social systems”16. In Giddens’s structural ←28 | 29→properties “structure only exists internal to …practice and as memory traces orientating the conduct of knowledgeable human agents”17. However, Giddens does not suggest that structural properties determine agency. Rather, social systems, which provide the structural properties, consist of reproduced relations between actors that have been organised as social practices18. For Giddens, all social life is generated in and through social praxis; where social praxis is defined to include the nature, conditions and consequences of historically and Spatio-temporally situated activities and interactions produced through the agency of social actors19. There is therefore an important circular movement between agency and structure which forms the main contention of Structuration theory.

Crucial to the idea of structuration is the theorem of duality of structures… The constitution of agents and structures are not two independently given sets of phenomena, a dualism, but represent a duality. According to the notion of the duality of structure, the structural properties of social systems are both medium and outcome of the practices they recursively organise. Structure is not “external” to individuals…Structure is not to be equated with constraints but is always both constraining and enabling20.

In other words, the moment of the production of action is also the moment of the reproduction of structural properties simultaneously, even in times of the most radical change21. Yet this is not to suggest that structures are merely constructed by action, but rather that actions reproduce them as conditions, as rules and resources, that makes agency possible. So one important insight that derives from Giddens’s structuration theory is that structural properties come into existence through agency as much as agency is constituted through structural properties. And yet, in order to have some impact on structural properties one single act is insufficient-only through repeated action, over space and time, is the agent able to exercise some influence. As we shall see in the course of this work, repetition has a significant ontological impact. The identity of agents is informed and conditioned by the prevailing structural properties of a particular discourse. And yet, since it is agency which shapes the structural properties, non-conformist action might become powerful by gradually transforming the prevailing “reality” into a different one over time. According to David Campbell, ←29 | 30→this might happen through constantly judging and acting, that is, through the permanent provocation of wide -ranging structural practices22.

Returning to Jabri’s notion of identity construction, the argumentation adopted in this book is that agents are historically situated and that their actions are enabled and constraint by the particular structural properties, or discourses to use a synonymous term. This recognition has an impact on both the way people invent as well as un-invent war. Against this backdrop, the existence of belligerence and hatred can be considered as a structural property which has developed in a community over time and which can potentially be un-made. This, however, requires change.

The second assumption implicit in Jabris’s argument above is that there is a “relation” between the construction of self and other. Even though Jabri’s texts reveal little about this relation, Susanne suggests that unravelling the construction of identify along the line of identity/difference provides valuable insights into the emergence and ending of conflicts and, therefore, merits closer attention. According to William E. Connolly, the importance of the other for the self is that the self simply would not exist without the other. Without difference there would be nothing to contrast ourselves. In Connolly’s words: An identity is established in relation to a series of differences that have become socially recognised. These differences are essential to its being. If they did not coexist as differences, it would not exist in this distinctness and solidity23.

Difference is hence indispensable for identify. For Campbell, “The constitution of identity is achieved through the inscription of boundaries which serve to demarcate an “inside” from an “outside”, a “self” from an “other”, a “domestic” from a “foreign””24. Andrew Linklater adds that Social systems are constructed along the line of inside/outside where exclusion at each level influences the other and is shaped by it25. The spatio-temporal representation gives us a particular identity since we have to draw lines between where we stand and where there is space for somebody else. Here and there, now and then, we and they become meaningful in light of this “effective geography” where loyalty and allegiance is ascribed to those we associate ourselves with26. Hand in hand with this process of identity creation, however, goes the claim for legitimacy and the notion of rights ←30 | 31→for “since we have come to exist we believe we have a right to exist”27. This right to exist can only be challenged by somebody who is not a member of my particular identity group. It can only be the indispensable other who has the ability to deprive us of our identity.

So far we have established that the existence of a self is ultimately linked to an other. Inside the spatiotemporal boundaries, identity is produced and reproduced through routinised practice. Agency is meaningful for it is conducted along the lines of collective memory traces which allow for knowledge among the members of a discourse. This raises the question how the construction of the self influences the relationship between identity and difference. In order to explain conflict as situated in the prevailing discursive and institutional continuities of a community, Jabri introduces the notion of conflict as “constructed discourse”. Again in accordance with Giddens’ structuration theory, she suggests that conflicts are not events that suddenly occur, but rather that they are situated in a discursive environment. Pre-existing structural properties supply the necessary foundation to justify and legitimise the emergence of and involvement in conflicts. Myths, memories and symbols not only provide the ground from which identity is drawn, but they also narrate the tale of the other as enemy and threat28. These exclusive discourses about the inside/outside split of community boundaries are likewise embedded in discursive and institutional continuities and serve as justification for the practice and politics of exclusion29. But where do these exclusive discourses originate? Why was the other created as an enemy? Is it simply the existence of difference which provides the basis for conflicts?

In an attempt to respond to these questions, Campbell argues that “the problematic of identity/difference contains…no foundations which are prior to, or outside of, its operations”30. Instead conflict arises on the level of the boundaries which are supposed to provide distinctness and solidity for the respective identities, and which are not always originally clear cut. As Connelly notes: “if there is no natural or intrinsic identity, power is always inscribed in the relation an exclusive identity bears to the difference it constitutes”31. This power is manifested in turning the indispensable other into the evil other. “Identity requires difference ←31 | 32→in order to be, and it converts difference into otherness in order to secure its own self-certainty”32.

Connolly hence argues that the paradoxical element in the relation of identify to difference is that we cannot dispense with personal and collective identities, but the multiple drives to stamp truth upon those identities function to convert difference into otherness and otherness into scapegoats created and maintained to secure the appearance of true identity33.

Hence according to Connolly, communities which are uncertain about their own identity have a tendency to affirm this identity through increasing the difference between members and non-members leading to an exaggeration of the differences. Devoid of pre-existing coherent identities, the individual or the community is inclined to demarcate itself from the other34. This boundary drawing between self and other is thus central to post-positivist conflict analysis. In consequence, the promotion of peace has to tackle the prevailing social continuity of exclusion by changing the nature of the boundaries between inside and outside.

IV Emergence and support of violent conflicts

In linguistic terms Jabri locates the support for post Cold War conflicts in the “discourse of origins” where elites “hark back to a distant past in order to mobilise a bounded, exclusionist present”35. She argues that authorities and elites hold the power to control which discursive and institutional practices prevail inside of a community when she writes that the ability to consolidate and reproduce authoritative power is dependent on the capacity to manipulate the memory traces of community and control information gathering and dissemination which generate and reproduce the discursive and institutional communities which “bind” societies36.

The “binding” of societies can be based on a hegemonic discourse which does not allow for dissent voices, and it may consist in demonising anybody who is not a part of the “We-group”; a process of boundary drawing and demarcation is set in motion. Due to the overlap of signification, legitimisation and domination, plural communication is no longer possible; it is distorted and becomes ←32 | 33→exclusive. Jabri makes special reference to the state, a highly administered social system, as central to both the reproduction of war through the manipulation of the public discourse, as well as through the institutionalisation of the war process37.

Yet the difficulty with Jabri’s argument is that it credits too powerful a role to the elites. Her argument resonates with David keen and Mats Berdal’s study of conflict in Sub-Saharan Africa, according to which a range of elites initiate violence in order to deflect political threats38. They suggest that the growing internal and external pressure for democratisation puts the mere existence of dictatorial governments in jeopardy, and in order to secure their position governments frequently incite violence along ethnic lines. Due to a general lack of discipline and effective counter-insurgency military forces, there is a tendency to oppose the flaring-up of rebellion through the mobilisation of “top-down” violence, “with elites taking advantage of fear, need and greed of ordinary people to recruit civilians”39. Ethnic identities provide a useful vehicle for motivating violent conflict; existing discursive and institutional provisions are deployed to cut a gap through a community serving as a “regressive political function”40.

Similar to Jabri, for keen and Berdal the authority held by elites provides the necessary power to steer the perception, or discourse, of a community into a particular direction. However, the frequent occurrences of insurgencies, as opposed to government led wars, suggest that there are also actors outside of governmental institutions. Moreover, as central to the previous chapter, the occurrence of violent conflicts is internal to societies, and not external to them41. To solely attribute the potential of manipulating discourses into violence and exclusion to governments and elites reduces the multiple and diverse agents in a social field. As a consequence, it is not the case that “anything goes” when it comes to manipulation. Unless it is in line with a generally prevailing sentiment in the population, propaganda and hate speech incited by individuals does not necessarily lead to widespread violence. For here too, agency is constraint (and enabled) by structure. The genocide in Rwanda for instance, an often cited example to illustrate the degree to which people can be manipulated into committing the ←33 | 34→most horrendous crimes against humanity, was based on ethnic polarisation first politicised through German and Belgian colonial rulers and then radicalised after independence. In addition, it was carefully prepared over many years, and it occurred not only in the middle of a civil war and the corresponding extreme polarisation, but also in the context of flawed peace process. The action of killing was thus situated in a “long-duree” of fighting and hatred and not merely the result of spontaneous Hutu conspiracy.

Despite these critical remarks there remains a powerful role for discourses in the emergence of violent conflict. In response, much of post-positive conflict analysis is concerned with exploring how rituals of power have arisen, taken shape, gained importance and affected politics42. Campbell, for instance, draws on Jacques Derrida’s notion of deconstruction to illustrate the workings of power of relations. Deconstruction is perhaps best explained through what is not: it is not the negative task of demonization, and it is also not a simple dismantling of an entity into small parts43. Furthermore, deconstruction is not criticism in a general or Enlightenment sense of faultfinding, nor is it a scientific or philosophical method based on a metaphysics which can be applied to a particular case44. Deconstruction can be explained as the reading of a text in a way that “opens up the blind spots or ellipses within the dominant interpretation”45. Generally, texts are written in ways that exclude alternative perspectives; they make claims to reflect a particular reality authentically so that they introduce a sense of closure, which stifles alternative interpretations. Deconstruction reveals these limits and invites plural, alternative interpretations. Drawing on the deconstruction of texts, Campbell shows how narratives about the violent Conflict in Bosnia reflect particular accounts of Bosnian history which are conditioned by a selective understanding of ontological presumptions about ethnicity, nationalism, identity, violence and so on46. Ignorant of their ontological selection, the texts introduce closure on a multiple interpretation of history through developing a particular truth, or meta-narrative, devoid of contestation. The value ←34 | 35→of deconstruction is hence to open monopolistic accounts and to reveal their contingent character.

Ultimately, Campbell’s use of deconstruction seeks to challenge “the relations of power which, in dealing with difference, move from disturbance to oppression, from irritation to repression, and …from contestation to eradication”47. He calls for a different configuration of politics in which the overriding concern is the “struggle for alterity”, in which eradication is replaced by the nourishing and nurturing of antagonism, conflict and plurality48. In other words, Campbell is concerned with celebrating difference through “the proliferation of perspectives, dimensions and approaches to the very real dilemmas of global life”49 and he seeks to “contest the drive for a new normative architecture-especially in form of newly minted codes and principles-as a necessity for responses to the context of crisis”50. The importance of deconstruction for conflict analysis is that it allows for opening up closed discourses as multiple sites in which difference is not suppressed but appreciated. Its emancipatory potential is to challenge prevailing, that is structures of inclusion and exclusion, drawing attention to what has been stifled and offering an opportunity for silenced voices and opinions to emerge. The question remains, however, whether challenging structures and meaning is sufficient in war-torn societies. Once the prevailing power structures have been contested, may be even violently, are they to remain open? In fact, can they remain open? Is nurturing antagonism, conflict and plurality possible, or indeed desirable? Despite appreciating Campbell’s concern with challenging boundaries and opening up closed discourses this work argues that, regarding violent conflicts, he does not recognise that people need a sense of identity, a sense of belonging, a sense of limits and boundaries. Not for reasons of “human nature” or “human needs”, but simply because, otherwise, sociality would be impossible. For interaction to be meaningful, shared concepts of “language games” are required51. ←35 | 36→This is of particular importance for the time after a violent conflict when a new, peaceful future has to be developed and when the social structures that formerly made up the world and provided meaning are destroyed. For “Wars unmake worlds, both real and conceptual”52. Worlds cannot be simply recreated but have to be created anew since recreation would merely reproduce the tensions that led to the violent conflict53. After the violence, the creation of new identities can happen in antagonism or mutual acceptance of the other party to the conflict, perpetuating or reducing the potential for future violence. Often, though, antagonism prevails since the experience of bloodshed and loss has marked people deeply, rendering group identifies even more relevant than at the beginning of the hostilities. Hence, in many cases after a war both parties to the conflict end up trapped in collective identities54. This resonates in Vakim Volkan’s concept of “chosen trauma” according to which a group draws a traumatic event into its very identify in order to reproduce its collective identity55. The repetition of narratives about the traumatic event constructs the group’s identity in opposition to the identity of the opponent who caused the trauma, and as such becomes a social reality for those who participate in this discourse. A Common identity, a “we-feeling”, is shared between the people who recall the same painful past, rendering their social integration meaningful, while reproducing their boundary towards the outside56. This maintenance of antagonistic relationships keeps societies vulnerable to future violence.

The potential for reproducing antagonistic relationships between the parties to the conflict shows that, even though the cessation of fighting is often considered ←36 | 37→as the endpoint of peace process, it marks nothing more than a beginning57. In cases where the parties to the conflict continue living in closer proximity to each other, such as inter alia in Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Northern Ireland, Guatemala or El Salvador post-conflict transformation requires some form of intervention of new structures to prevent a new outbreak of violence. For “wars…only really end when they are transcended, when they… [go] beyond the traditional currency of victory and defeat; when the defeated side… [accepts] that the victory of its enemy… [is] also its victory as well”58. In an ideal case, the transcending of a war does not simply result in the new distribution of power; rather, it challenges and changes the power structures themselves. It does not merely invert the level in which the power structures are newly defined and no longer rely on the exclusion of one party at the expense of the other. Conflict is then positive, for it challenges boundaries, and it is also positively constructive for it leads to newly invented ways of relating to each other. To move from conflict to peace is thus not sufficient to deconstruct exclusive power structures, leading to plurality and diversity, but it is at the same time also necessary to change theses structure and antagonisms, moving the parties to a new level beyond enmity. This has so far been largely ignored by post-positive approaches to conflict studies and shall be addressed in the section-inventing peace.

V Conclusion

In this first part of my work we see clearly that violence in Africa in general is not something abstract but a reality. It existed and exists in the families and villages due to differences in opinion, due to struggle over land and pasture, and it exists also due to struggle over women. Violence existed among clans due to desire to expand ones territories and dominate others. Violence exists until today in governments due to differences in opinion between governments and opposition. Violence today exists also not just as a means to redress grievances but often it is simply the result of greed- the desire to have more. We also saw how war is invented-it doesn’t come abruptly but it is a process. It begins with building ones identity and drawing boundaries through creating difference. These boundaries demarcate the inside from outside, the self from the other, and the domestic from the foreign, thus exclusion of the other. The construction of self influences ←37 | 38→the relationship between identity and difference and difference turns out to be seen as otherness, as scapegoat. This creates a duree of hatred and eventually fuels conflict and fighting. We have also seen the tendency to see all who do not belong to the “we group” as enemies and to be fought. We have also seen here in a small manner that Peace making here will involve tackling existing prevailing social exclusions and changing the boundaries between inside and outside and also adapting deconstruction to reveal the limits of closure and invite plural and alternative interpretations. So accommodation, inclusion, tolerance will be the words preferred here. This will however be treated in detail under the subtopic covering peace, Part D of our work.

1Quoted in Susanne, Buckley-Zistel, Conflict Transformation and Social Change in Uganda, Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2008, p. 12.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2021 (July)
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2021. 482 pp., 6 fig. b/w.

Biographical notes

Robert Butele (Author)

Robert Butele, born in 1972, is a Priest of the Catholic Diocese of Arua (Uganda). He worked as curate in Arua Town Christ the King Parish (2002-2005). He holds a Bachelor of Philosophy from Makerere University (Uganda), Bachelor of Theology from Urbaniana University-Rome, a Licentiate in Systematic Theology from Philosophisch-Theologische Hochschule Sankt-Georgen (Germany), and a Doctorate in Theology-[Church-History] from the Phisosophisch-Theologische Hochschule Vallendar (Germany).


Title: The Legacy of Violence in Uganda and the Role of the Church towards Peace