In 2019, Makerere University, with support from the Government of Uganda, introduced a special Fund to support high impact Research and Innovations that inform National Development Priorities. The objective of the Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (Mak-RIF) is to increase the local generation of translatable research and scalable innovations that address key gaps required to drive Uganda’s development agenda. Other objectives include supporting the dissemination of high quality research and innovations in a way that impacts on development policies and programmes, and supporting the growth of research leadership capacity in the university. The Research and Innovations Fund is open to researchers from all Colleges of Makerere University which have research that aligns with National Priorities. The Government has so far extended UGX60 billion towards the Fund.
Since FY 2019/20, the fund has supported 587 multidisciplinary research and innovation projects across the 10 colleges of Makerere University. Of these, the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHUSS) has obtained 61 projects across the two financial years.
In line with Objective Two of the Fund – “Supporting dissemination of high quality research and innovations in a way that impacts on development policies and programmes”, Mak-RIF in collaboration with CHUSS held an Open Day on 29th April 2021 to showcase some of the outputs of the different research and innovation projects at the College. The event held in the Arts Quadrangle at CHUSS was presided over by the First Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of Academic Affairs, Dr. Umar Kakumba. It was graced by among others, the Chairperson of Mak-RIF, Prof. William Bazeyo; representatives from the Mak-RIF Secretariat led by Ms. Phoebe Kamya Lutaaya; the Principal of CHUSS, Dr Josephine Ahikire; the Ag. Deputy Principal, Dr Julius Kikooma; the Dean School of Psychology, Dr Grace Kibanja; the Dean School of Languages, Literature and Communication, Dr Saudah Namyalo; and the Dean School of Liberal and Performing Arts, Dr Patrick Mangeni.
Projects showcased at the event included; “Whole University Approach: Kicking Sexual Harassment out of Higher Education Institutions in Uganda” led by Prof. Grace Bantebya – Kyomuhendo, “Men and Gender-Based Violence: Changing Masculinities for Effective COVID 19 Social Response in Uganda” led by Dr. Josephine Ahikire, “Adherence, lived experiences and resilient transformation among slum dwellers (ALERTs) in COVID-19: A study of Ki-Mombasa and Kabalagala Kataba slums in Kampala” by Dr. Gloria Kimuli Seruwagi, “Drug and Substance Abuse (DASA) in Primary and Secondary Schools in Uganda: Baseline Survey Implications for National Sensitisation, Curriculum Development and Capacity Building among Teachers” led by Dr. Leonsio Matagi and “Children’s Tales: the reality of Covid-19 related trauma on school children in rural Busoga, Uganda” by Mr. Richard Balikoowa. Other projects showcased at the Open Day are; “Transforming Ugandan Folktales in Digital (Animation) Films for Educational and Leisure Purposes” led by Prof. Dominica Dipio, “Many peoples, many cultures, many heritages: Going Beyond nature-based tourism in Uganda” by Dr. William Wagaba, “Mainstreaming Kiswahili in Uganda’s National Agenda for Regional Integration and Sustainable Development” by Dr. Caroline Asiimwe, “Corpus Development of the “SO” Language”, led by Dr. Celestino Oriikiriza, “Communicating COVID-19-related messages in multilingual contexts” by Dr. Allen Asiimwe, “National Symbols and Values: Implications for Patriotism and National Development” by Dr. Paddy Musana, “Building peaceful communities in Kampala City amidst COVID-19 and beyond” led by Dr. Samson Barigye, “Use of episodic dramatics in promoting uptake of behavioural measures for prevention of COVID-19” led by Dr. Michael Muhumuza, and “Leveraging Civic Technology To Address COVID-19 in Uganda” by Dr. Firminus Mugumya Kabuzaranwa.
CHUSS Presents the highest number of PhDs & Best Humanities Student at the Mak 74th Graduation
During the Mak 74th Graduation ceremony, the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHUSS) was recognized for outstanding performance. Besides leading in the production of the highest number of Doctoral candidates, CHUSS delivered the overall best humanities student and 85 UPDF officers who graduated with Diplomas and degrees in defence and security studies.
The college was also honored for delivering the First Black African Recipient of the prestigious “Lifetime Achievement Award”, and its staff appointments on regional and internal bodies and partnerships bearing fruits. Six members of staff were also announced for the Vice Chancellor’s Research Excellence Awards 2023. The college was hailed for authoring the centennial book highlighting the 100 years of the university service to humanity that was launched by the First lady and Minister of Education and Sports.
30 PhD candidates presented
For the third time, CHUSS presented the highest number of PhDs totaling 30 out of 132 PhDs across the ten colleges representing 23%. The college also presented 260 Masters graduands out of 1585 across colleges a percentage share of 16.4% becoming the second to the College of Health Sciences. CHUSS also presented 1366 candidates for the award of Bachelor’s degrees, out of 11,016 ( 0.1%) and 45 postgraduate diploma candidates out of 156 (29%) across colleges. In total, the college presented close to 2000 candidates during the 5th session of the Mak 74th graduation ceremony held on 2nd February 2024.
Presiding over the graduation ceremony, the Vice Chancellor Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe commended CHUSS leadership and staff for the consistent leadership in graduate output.
“This is a groundbreaking achievement. We congratulate the college leadership led by Prof. Josephine Ahikire for maintaining the lead in graduate output for three consecutive graduation ceremonies. Our goal is to graduate at least 200 PhDs per year in response to the World Bank call of at least 100,000 PhDs for Africa over the next 10 years, in order to pull our continent out of poverty”, Prof. Nawangwe appreciated
85 UPDF officers presented for graduation
The college presented 85 Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) generals, senior and junior staff officers who graduated with masters, bachelors and diplomas after completing studies in different disciplines related to defence, security and medical studies.The Vice Chancellor applauded CHUSS for this partnership noting that, it was historical.
“This is historical in the lifetime of Makerere and the UPDF where for the first time, a huge number of officers from our affiliated institutions of the National Defence College Uganda and Senior Command and Staff College Kimaka are walking away with awards. We congratulate Brig. Flavia Byekaso, Brig. Gen. Ruteran and Col. Edith Nakalema and the entire security team upon this achievement.”
The Best Humanities Student Awarded
CHUSS also presented the best performing undergraduate student in the humanities. Mr.Tusubira Silas Wamala graduated with a Bachelor of Chinese and Asian Studies and tied with Atukunda Kevin of the a Bachelor of International Business (MUBS), with a CGPA of 4.84 out of 5.0. The students received plaques and one million shillings each from Makerere University Convocation chaired by Mr. George Turyamureeba.
Assoc. Prof. Susan Kiguli’s Lifetime Achievement Award highlighted
The Vice Chancellor reported that on the global Scene, CHUSS delivered the First Black African recipient of the prestigious “Lifetime Achievement Award” in Italy at the Vercelli Seminar in August 2023. Makerere‘s Poet and Literary scholar, Assoc. Prof. Susan Kiguli who denounces violence and abuse of power in the black context was at the centre of the festival and Chief guest. Kiguli’s first book in Italy titled, The Weeping Lands” was published and launched fetching another prize called, the “Ali sul Mediterraneo Libri & Cultura” international award.”
Six members of staff Receive the Vice Chancellor’s Research Excellence Awards 2023
Prof. Nawangwe reported that as a result of the various partnerships forged over time, research output in terms of innovations and publications has increased. The Vice Chancellor announced the inaugural Makerere University Vice Chancellor’s Research Excellence Awards, in recognition of outstanding performers in research and publication.
The award was based on the highest number of publications between the year 2017 and 2023 according to the Scopus database. Health Science Professors Moses Robert Kamya and Rhoda Wanyenze emerged as the Best Overall Male and Female Researchers respectively. Prof. Moses Robert Kamya has 271 publications and Prof. Rhoda Wanyenze has 153 publications in the aforementioned period.
The Vice Chancellor recognized and congratulated six CHUSS researchers listed and published in the Graduation Booklet and the Mak News Magazine. The researchers were honored by the Vice Chancellor and Chairperson of Makerere University during the Convocation luncheon held at Makerere University Convocation House.
CHUSS best researchers included: Assoc. Prof. Walakira Eddy, Dr. Neema Stella, Dr. Baluku Martin, Dr. Kizito Simon, Dr. Mabingo Alfdaniels and Assoc. Prof. Twikirize Mwende Janestic.
Prof. Nawangwe urged all staff to continue conducting research on national development priorities as well as matters of global interest and publishing their work in high-impact journals so as contribute to Makerere’s drive to become a research-led university. He also advised on the need for the research to lead to patents, copyrights and trademarks, and tangible innovations in the form of products, policy briefs, manuals and others.
Partnership with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
The Vice Chancellor extended gratitude to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia through its Royal Embassy in Uganda as one of the development partners working with the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Makerere University. Nawangwe reported that the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia, and Makerere University have worked on several projects including a grant that benefited close to a hundred students who received bursaries to study Arabic at Makerere University and ICT equipment which have supported the teaching of Arabic language in the School of Languages, Literature and Communication.
“We also acknowledge the generous support to our moslem staff to fulfil the fifth pillar of Islam- Pilgrim to Mecca. We are also grateful for the ongoing initiatives being made to establish the Centre for Arabic Language Studies at CHUSS, support training and research in Oil and Gas, ICT and Engineering”. The Professor acknowledged.
Prof. Lyn Ossome, Director MISR elected President of CODESRIA 2023-2026
In his speech, the Vice Chancellor reported that the university participated in the 16th Council for Development of Social Sciences Research in Africa (CODESRIA) General Assembly on 4th to 8th December 2023 that was held in Dakar, Senegal where Prof. Lyn Ossome was elected president. The University also received a donation of 79 books from CODESRIA which were delivered and presented to the university library.
Launch of the Makerere University @100 book
Prof. Nawangwe informed the congregation that, as part of the Makerere centennial celebrations, the university has been able, with a team of editors and authors, to map out the 100-year journey of Makerere University. This book, titled Makerere’s Century of Service to East Africa and Beyond: 1922-2022 tells Makerere’s unique story as a university serving Uganda, East Africa and the world.
“As we consolidate our place on the knowledge generation stage, we are proud to share this publication with you. We specifically look forward to keep building for the future in the next 100 years of our University’s existence”. “I thank the following editors: Prof. A.B. Kasozi, Prof. Josephine Ahikire, Prof. Dominica Dipio, Prof. Helen Byamugisha and Dr. Isaac Tibasiima for the commitment to this noble task. I am delighted to report that this book has been published by our very own Makerere University Press”. The Vice Chancellor stated.
The book was officially launched by the First lady and Minister of Education and Sports represented by the State Minister for higher education Hon. John Chrysostom Muyingo witnessed by Chairperson of Council and members of top management.
The Vice chancellor highlighted a number of achievements recorded in the last two years including the issuance of transcripts and certificates before the graduation, the ground breaking research, innovations and partnerships.
Prof. Nawangwe acknowledged the support accorded by various stakeholders including Government of Uganda, development partners, parents and guardians, sponsors, and staff, without whom, it would have been impossible for the university to achieve the various milestones recorded over the years.
Vice Chancellor’s Message to the graduands
In his key message to the graduands, Prof. Nawangwe described graduation as the most important and most memorable day in the life of any scholar on grounds that it is a license to succeed in life, and a privilege to serve humanity.
“You have worked hard to get a degree or diploma from one of the best universities in the World. This is a license for you to succeed in whatever you choose to do in your life career. But always remember that success will only come with discipline and hard work, while honoring your parents and fearing God.
Shortly you will become an alumnus of this great institution. Cherish the knowledge and experiences you have collected while here, but remember that learning never ends. Our gates remain open for you if you wish to pursue higher degrees”, the professor advised.
With a degree from one of the best universities in the World, Prof. Nawangwe stressed, that graduates have no reason not to succeed in life.
“Indeed, the World is yours to conquer. If jobs are not forthcoming, create them, for we have empowered you not only to be employable, but also to be entrepreneurs. Be the light that others will follow. We are proud that we have been a part of your life, that we have given you the knowledge and courage to face life in this ever-changing World. Go out to the World and make it a better place”. He emphasized.
The Mak 74th Graduation statistics
During the course of the 74th graduation ceremony (Monday 29th January to 2nd February 2024) a total of 12,913 graduands received degrees and diplomas of Makerere University. Of these, a total of 132 graduands graduated with PhDs, 1585 with Masters degrees, 11,016 with Bachelor’s degrees, 156 with postgraduate diplomas, and 24 with undergraduate diplomas.
53% of the graduands were female and 47% were male. In the category of PhD graduands, 46 were female and 86 were male. In the category of students graduating with Master’s degrees, 699 were female and 886 were male.
Mak & Wits Forum on Sidelines of NAM & G77 Summits Debates African Agency
On Friday 19th January 2024, Makerere University in partnership with the University of the Witwatersrand’s African Centre for the Study of the United States (ACSUS) held a Forum based on the theme “Africa in the Global South: Advancing African Agency, Amplifying African Voices.” Dubbed the only academic event on the sidelines of the 19th Summit of Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Heads of State and Government, and the Third South Summit organized under the framework of Group 77 (G77) and China, the event was among other objectives aimed at giving a platform for youth to discuss the notion of African Agency.
Providing an overview and conceptual understanding of the forum, Prof. Gilbert Khadiagala, Director of ACSUS noted that African Agency is an important notion particularly in the gradual shift from a bipolar to a promising multipolar world. “We are celebrating the end of what we describe as American hegemony, and now moving into a phase where there is a semblance of multiplicity of powers emerging globally.”
Describing agency as “the ability of Africans to advance their voice globally”, Prof. Khadiagala noted that this agency had since the decolonization period of the 1960s been subject to the dilemma of either advancing as 50-plus sovereign African States or as a collective. He nevertheless opined that “there is no real effective African Agency if we are not talking about Agency as a collective enterprise.”
Prof. Khadiagala therefore paid tribute to the first NAM Conference held in Bandung, Indonesia in April 1955 for inviting Africa to the discussion table even before several States had gained independence. He equally acknowledged the G77 Meeting of 1979 held in Arusha, Tanzania as having given birth to “the new international economic order”, which became a rallying point for the promotion of global economic reforms. This new international economic order, he added, was unfortunately dealt a harsh blow in 1982, when the powers in Washington and England insisted that they would only negotiate with individual Nation States.
The abyss that NAM and the G77 went into after 1982 notwithstanding, Prof. Khadiagala noted that the hosting of the NAM plus G77 and China Summits in Kampala and the subsequent assuming of the Chairmanship by Uganda was worth celebrating. He regarded this shift as an opportunity for Africa to seize the moment, begin to set the agenda and be in the driver’s seat of the Non-Aligned Movement, and not just be guests at the table where key decisions are made as has hitherto been the case.
Dr. Edward Silvestre Kaweesi from the Department of Political Science and Public Administration who moderated the forum thanked Prof. Khadiagala and ASUS for partnering with Makerere to organize the event, noting that it is in tandem with a project focused on the Historicizing and Rethinking Humanities and Humanistic Social Sciences at Makerere University since 1922. The publication from the project, he added, deeply interrogates the topic of African Agency.
He further noted that whereas no NAM Youth Summit had been organized at the Kampala Edition, the outcome of the Forum, a comprehensive report, will highlight the voices of youth, “Interrogating the question of the African Agency as it is playing out at the moment in the NAM and G77.”
In addition to the report, Dr. Kaweesi shared that an edited volume of the book based on the Forum theme will be published within the year. The book will be a publication of Makerere University and the University of the Witwatersrand.
The Deputy Director ACSUS, Dr. Bob Wekesa noted that the longstanding collaboration between Makerere and Wits affords both institutions the opportunity to advance partnerships in terms of joint research, exchange of faculty and students, and joint fieldwork. Turning to the timing of the Forum, he added that the “NAM and G77 Summits provide an opportune moment for us to demonstrate in real terms that we are actually very pragmatic and working towards tangible areas of partnership.”
The Chief Guest at the Forum and Principal, College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHUSS) Prof. Josephine Ahikire thanked the key parties in the collaboration between Makerere and Wits for convening the event and expressed CHUSS’ commitment to support similar initiatives.
“We are really committed to advancing what we have called the African Voice and African Intellectualism. This is why when we talk about NAM, especially in the fact that it is described in the sense of what it is not, ‘Non-Aligned’, I think ‘What are we aligned to?’ should be the most important question” remarked the Principal.
Prof. Ahikire further emphasised the need for we the Africans to go beyond the buzzword of decolonization and mean business by revalidating African epistemologies, African indigenous knowledge systems and African languages. She therefore called for the creation of many more spaces such as the day’s Forum to articulate the African visions and what is referred to by the notion of global south.
“Somebody asked ‘Who is an African?’ that question is as political as you can imagine but definitely, the answer and the solution is in the definition of what you mean by African, whether on the continent or in the diaspora, the voice around critiquing global marginalization, and sometimes it is self-marginalization especially when we negate everything that is African” said. Prof. Ahikire.
The Principal added that beyond the toll on human life posed by COVID-19, the pandemic demonstrated that African indigenous knowledge systems offered precious lessons that we ought to take forward. “There was a reminder to return to humanity, to Ubuntu, and the things that began to matter were not actually things (property) but new ways of living humanity. Those are the kinds of lessons that we could take to defining and envisioning our futures and not always lamenting.”
Following the official opening ceremony, the Principal was gifted a copy of the book “Africa’s policy towards the US: The Biden Era” edited by Bob Wekesa. The event also served as an opportunity to launch the book “China’s Footprint in East Africa: Pessimism versus Optimism” written by Bob Wekesa.
The Forum was also enriched panel discussions based on the themes; African agency towards global South powers and The intersection of Agenda 2063, EAC policies, and the global South. The combined panel discussion from the themes was moderated by Dr. Gardner Rwakiseta Herbert from Julius Nyerere Leadership Center (JNLC) and featured as panelists; Dr. Charles Bate from Tree Adoption Uganda, and Mr. Benon Hebert Oluka from the Global Investigative Journalism Network of the African Union Media Fellowship. Additional panelists included Advocate Francis Gimara, Dr. David Ngendo-Tshimba from Uganda Martyrs University, and Dr. Bob Wekesa.
A second panel discussion tackled the theme Amplifying African voices: media and summit diplomacy and was moderated by Dr. Gerald Walulya from Department of Journalism and Communication, Makerere University and featured Dr. William Tayeebwa from the same Department. Dr. Eunice Akullo from the Department of Political Science and Public Administration then moderated a presentation by Prof. Julius Kiiza of the same Department on the theme Gender and youth perspectives on African agency in the global South.
The Forum was coordinated by Dr. Edward Silvestre Kaweesi, Mr. Solomon Winyi, and the Principal Public Relations Officer Ms. Ritah Namisango.
Click the video below to watch full proceedings of the Forum
CHUSS Researchers Call for Review of Rules on Acquisition of National IDs to Address the Aguu Phenomenon in Northern Uganda
Researchers from Makerere University College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHUSS) led by Prof. Josephine Ahikire – the Principal Investigator have called on government to revise rules pertaining to the acquisition of National Identity Cards (IDs) to address the question of the Aguu floating population of the Acholi sub- region in Northern Uganda.
The Aguus are largely the Acholi floating population who were displaced during the LRA war. Some lost their parents or were born during captivity. They think they are not part of society. Most of these, are largely street children without fathers and mothers and, do not own or have access to land and all sorts of amenities. For that reason, they have to struggle to survive and in the struggle to survive, they engage in criminal and violent activities. They way-lay people, rape, steal and storm functions to loot food.
The researchers are also calling for the implementation of the Juba Peace Agreement, particularly to address the human aspect, repair their souls and skill them for survival if the region is to return to the original social cohesion.
The communities according to the researchers have to change the orientation that creates the floating population and to accept that they were disrupted by the war and therefore understand that these children need to regain their humanness.
Since 2019, CHUSS in collaboration with Amani Institute, Uganda in Gulu, has been conducting a study on Gender Justice, Livelihood and Rights in Northern Uganda. The collaborative study was conducted under the Gender Justice and Security hub, funded by the London School of Economics and Political Science, through the UK Research Innovation.
The Research team comprised Prof. Josephine Ahikire (Co Director Gender Justice and Security Hub), Dr. Amon Ashaba Mwiine (Lead Researcher), Ms. Acayo Gloria (Researcher), Ms. Harriet Pamara (Researcher) and Mr. Aklam Amanya, (Researcher). The study covered the Acholi sub-region where the team purposively sampled four districts of Gulu, Pader, Amuru and Omoro.
On 14th December, 2023, CHUSS, in collaboration with Amani Institute, Uganda hosted a national convention at Fairway Hotel I Kampala to foster a national conversation with a special focus on the issue of floating populations, specifically the Aguu phenomenon in the Acholi sub region as one of the factors that undermines return to social cohesion.
This convention built on previous conversations that have highlighted categories of populations that emerged from war with a loss of social identity and belonging aimed at amplifying voice on these post war social struggles as issues with broader national implications.
The convention brought together national level stakeholders, policy makers from ministries, Departments and Agencies, local governments, academics and researchers, cultural leaders, and civil society organizations in and beyond the Acholi sub region region under the Theme: The Aguu Phenomenon: Floating Populations and the Quest for Social Belonging in Acholi, Northern Uganda.
The Principal Investigator Prof. Josephine Ahikire said, Northern Uganda was chosen on the argument that, even though the guns are silent and despite the significant investments in post war recovery, there is still violence of another kind.
The Research team according to Prof. Ahikire, explored the existing post-conflict conflicts and the gender layering within them, examined the dynamics within rights claims on land, livelihoods and gender justice and took stock of the community’s resilience, efforts and initiatives towards return to sustainable peace.
“We started with land conflicts and then as we were looking at women’s land rights, we bumped into this issue of Aguu – children mainly whose fathers are not not known, they are castigated and they are floating in a sense.
And the conversation in the fora that we have been in Gulu is that, according to the Acholi culture, there is no child that should float. That a child is always a child. So, if a child is born out of wedlock or if the father is not known, that particular child, is supposed to belong to the mothers clan,” Ahikire explained.
That sort of cultural terrain according to the PI was disrupted by the war as people got displaced, as land got grabbed and got individualized, they created new norms which have castigated these children because it means that they do not have a claim to land.
Prof. Ahikire said, the research team also heard from government officials that because the Aguus do not have claim from known clans, they cannot have national Identity cards.
“This is a very big issue but which has been securiticised as criminal gangs. These are not criminals. These are children that have been excluded from belonging and that is why we thought of performances using the theater to bring the point home that these children need belonging. It is a cry, a voice from Aguu –give us social belonging and an identity. If we don’t, in all discussions, it has been seen as a new war – they kill, rape, steal and some are armed, it is a big national issue, a gender issue and a development issue.”, the Professor warned.
As a government, Ahikire stressed that there is need to engage the communities to change that orientation that creates the floating population and to accept that, they were disrupted by the war but now, need to regain humanness.
Prof. Ahikire emphasized that government has a role to play, because it has a bigger mandate to ensure that the region returns to the original social cohesion.
She credited government for the reconstruction of materials things like roads etc but observed that, the repair of the human aspect and the soul was not done. The disgruntled people and children born in captivity according the researchers came back to a strange place that castigates them and that is where the energy needs to be put.
“The Ministry of Gender, the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs and rules around national IDs have to change because, if a child is born and does not know the origin or the father, does that mean that a child was not bon in Uganda? These are artificial things we put as human beings to organize ourselves as clans but this should not be a major determinant for a person to get a national ID. That is something simple that government can do to ensure that these children can be long and function as citizens”, the Professor advised.
Prof. Ahikire further called for more rehabilitation of the Aguus in terms of skills- building to make them productive and self-reliant. Those who can go to school can be enabled to go to school and those who can be helped in terms of vocational skills can be helped, but, the bottom line according to Prof. Ahikire is that something has to be done quickly because the region is going into the silent war, and if it becomes of a major scale, it will not be managed because these children are becoming adults giving children and therefore the whole region and nation will be at stake.
Ahikire reported that the Aguu is subculture and un underground culture whose numbers are not known. What is known is what they do. They way-lay people from the markets, those going to the university, and storm functions such as parties, funerals and weddings causing harvoc, looting and eating food as a means of survival and some even have guns.
Because it is an under culture, Prof. Ahikire said, there has not been an effort to count them and this is the time, if they are given that chance to come out.
She acknowledged that local government in Gulu district has tried to bring some of the Aguus out through initiatives such as cleaning the city but this is not enough-it has to be a very intentional intervention that seeks these children out, show them love, and nurture them as citizens that belong to nation called Uganda, to the culture called Acholi and the neighboring districts.
Representing the Vice Chancellor of Makerere University, Assoc. Prof. Henry Arinaitwe commended CHUSS for an inquest into the Aguu floating population in search for solutions.
“Aguus are people who are displaced, people who have no identity and for survival, are forced to involve in criminal activity and seem not to belong to a particular society. So this function is basically to find solutions for such people in Acholi sub-region.
Makerere is a research-led University. So, we research on all aspects of life in order to find solutions. This research is on Aguu population and our researchers are presenting their findings and engaging MPs from the region, government representatives, the CSOs and the representatives of the Aguus, in order to find solutions”, He said.
The dissemination involved theatrical performances using art and music as a tool directed by Dr. Viola Karungi and Dr. Milton Wabyona from the Department of Performing Arts and Film (PAF) From the performance, the Aguus think society is the problem and society thinks Aguus are the problem but concludes that if the common solution can be found, everybody will live a decent life have a sense of belonging and Acholi sub-region will be secure.
Government reminded to fully implement the Juba Peace Agreement
Presiding over the convention as Chief Guest, the Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs Hon. Norbert Mao expressed the need for government to fully implement the Juba Peace Agreement if the question of the Aguus is to be resolved.
The function was also graced by officials from the Gender Ministry, members of parliament from Acholi sub-region, NGOs and CSO, Members of the academia, children called by the derogatory name Aguu and students of Performing Arts and Film.
Minister Mao commended the researchers for the collaborative nature of the study and shading light on the status of the people of Northern Uganda. He also interested the research team to highlight the cause of the Aguu phenomenon describing the academicians as the Gurus (dispellers of darkens).
“In that respect, a university has a very important role because a university is supposed to be a protected area – a knowledge reserve, the way forests, lakes and wetlands are …what we call academic freedom – the freedom to research, the freedom to publish, the freedom to think and the freedom to express what you have found out. This therefore is a collaboration which we should salute- a collaboration between an academic institution which has the duty to shade light”. The minister commended.
Hon. Mao called for more government commitments to building a post conflict society especially the full implementation of the Juba Peace Agreement. The minister implored parliamentarians from Acholi, Teso and West Nile regions to treat the Juba Peace Agreement as their key document and manifesto.
“You must master it and use it as the standard of debating with government. Treat it as a written and bounced cheque by government, where you should go back and demand”, Hon. Mao advised
The minister also implored all stakeholders to address the Aguu question by moving away from the symptomatic assessment to finding out the causal relationship between the abortive demobilization, disarmament, reintegration and resettlement project.
“As a government of Uganda, we have framed the Aguu issue as a problem of the criminal justice system. So, we are directing the Aguu as a security problem, as criminal justice and were are not looking at it as a social and humanitarian problem”, Mao stated and hailed the university for creating awareness through theatre. The performance concluded that the blame game creates a vicious cycle as the Aguus blame society and vice –versa .
The Minister assured participants that it is the duty of the state to ensure that it is very risky to kill any Ugandan, to snatch ladies handbags, injure anyone or threaten anybody going home from the market and that, it is the duty of the state to draw that line and make sure that whoever does it, does it at a very high risk and there should be no incentive.
Hon. Mao’s central thesis is that the Aguu phenomenon which is characterized by violence and disorderly conduct is neither, genetic nor hereditary. It is a learned behavior, a coping mechanism and a response to circumstances and social environments.
“So we must look at the social environment and the circumstances. Our children have been exposed to a lot of violence and that partly explains their aggressive behavior because the major feature of being an Aguu is aggressiveness. Aguus are well-known for mobs. If there is a burial they go and position themselves and when the time for food comes, they physically disrupt the serving. When there is a wedding, there are there but they fear guns”, the minister explained.
The minister also reported that the Aguus have become mercenaries and hired gangs because there is a vacuum by the security forces to enforce the laws. Otherwise, he said, they would have become irrelevant. They see that violence is the only way to get what they want and only way to solve problems.
Hon. Mao further said, the Aguu is largely, a local government issue on grounds that it is their duty to put these people in places where they can acquire new habits of waking up and knowing that money is worked for.
“These young people should get new habits because, if your habit is to wake up in the morning with a list of where there is a funeral, public function, with spies everywhere, how can it be un done?- by inculcating a culture of work. Our young people must be made to love to work”, the minister stated.
Minister Mao also attributed the Aguu phenomenon on parenting as another frontier.
“I also know that parents have resigned. It is natural to be rebellious. Given how young Uganda’s population is , we must have a program which gives young people an opportunity to turn that corner, it is never too late, let us tell our young children that it is possible to change . We must plant a seed in the minds of all children that they have potential to change for better and be useful to society”, Mao advised all including parents and relatives.
The Research Process
The Lead Researcher Dr. Amon Mwine from the School of Women and Gender Studies said the study investigated people’s everyday experiences of return from protracted war, their relationships on land, livelihood patterns, emerging post conflicts and how these influence gender relations.
The study, he said drew on a mixture of methods of collaborative knowledge production in different phases of field visits.
Dr. Mwine said the dominant discourses identified by participants in postwar Acholi was on the emerging categories of population called the floating population, a social term referring to categories of people with precarious identities in the post-conflict setting ie those born in camps, returned from the bush, people with no known parents, no clan identity and no ancestral land (identity) also, described as people who are detached from Acholi history and culture, described by denigrating labels.
Besides the theme of the floating population, Dr. Mwine said several social concerns were identified. These included land conflicts in form of contest over boundaries, shifts in customary land tenure systems and increasing intolerance of nephews and nieces fearing land claims from children with multiple identities.
The research team according to Dr. Mwine also noted the dominant conversation on social disruption and psychological trauma that hardly gain precedence in post –conflict recovery agenda. Mwine also reported that there were increasing cases of gender based violence, teenage pregnancies and psycho- social trauma and reported spike in the cases of male suicide in the region
Mwine also reported that, there have been increasing reports of criminality in post-war Acholi sub region in both conventional and social media committed by the Aguu terrorizing community residents and travelers across the region. He said the Aguus were reportedly very organized groups with zones of operation with its leaders. They have identification marks like body piercing, tattoos, hairstyles that help them identify each other and communicate easily.
While some actors especially local government have intensified security crack down on what is perceived as urban criminality, Dr. Mwine said, other actors focused on rehabilitation and rethinking the role of social structures such as clan, families, religion and traditional institutions in restoring lost social values.
The Aguu phenomen according to Dr. Mwine has far reaching policy implications
- Issues of Identity and belonging e.g. the Aguu are complex social relations often taken for granted and not centered in post-conflict recovery programming. They are currently addressed with strategies that constitute Aguu as an issue of morality and criminality, and a problem to economic development, commonly addressed through security crackdown.
- Because of their unclear social identity, i.e. no known parents, no clear cultural heritage, and the precarious social settings they operate in, Aguu are most likely to be excluded by the formal citizenry systems eg registration of nationals such as during acquisition of Identity cards.
- Aguu are said to be using tactics and methods closely similar to the ones used during the LRA insurgency- their actions are similar to those individuals who had been in the bush; they use ruthless means like stabbing people with knives, looting people’s property, torture and no value to human life. Aguu not only instil fear in the population but also threatens sustainable peace in the community.
Learnings and key messages
Dr. Mwine reported that having engaged communities in several dialogues, different lessons were taken from the research process.
- One particular learning is on how economic centered post conflict programming e.g. prioritizing investment in physical infrastructure and economic ventures often takes for granted social aspects of recovery.
- The centrality of social vitality or the loss of it and its implications for the return to social cohesion in post-conflict communities is apparent.
- The question of Aguu as part of the population at the margins of the post – conflict northern Uganda does reveal the need to prioritize post-war social identity. The case of Aguu and the state measures to respond to it declaring security operations is a critical juncture. It points to the need to rethink the place of culture, traditional systems in enabling belonging and social cohesion.
- Rediscovering social connectedness, cultural heritage and a sense of identity in the Acholi community might be one of the core aspects needed to address the Aguu question and facilitate a return to relative social cohesion.
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