“Being in the group has made it so that people don’t hate each other anymore. The perpetrator who hurt me still lives among us but before I would pass him without talking to him, now I even say hello to them”
Reconciliation is achieved both indirectly through collaborative livelihood activities and directly through targeted interventions that support groups to resolve conflicts and to restore peace at the group and community level. Our reconciliation work involves a range of different activities, designed with the groups according to their own specific needs.
One of the greatest indicators of the success of our reconciliation work is how many of the former child soldiers are elected to leadership positions within the group. Whether as chairperson, treasurer, mobilizer or theater trainer, some of our members most effected by the war are demonstrating how to recover and re-create their lives after the war.
Many of the former child soldiers and ex-combatants that GRG works with continue to be stigmatized in their communities due to beliefs and mistrust stemming from the war. GRG anti-stigmatization activities help communities understand that abducted soldiers were also victims. Stigma can re-traumatize and isolate returnees further fuelling cycles of conflict. Once trained, the groups provide a safe space where returnees can feel welcome, providing an example to the surrounding community. Between 2012 and 2014, GRG trained over 800 people in anti-stigmatization.
Traditional Cleansing Rituals
According to traditional Acholi beliefs, evil spirits linger on where atrocities of the war occurred. In accordance with Acholi tradition, much of this land cannot be cultivated because the spirits have not been cleansed. In order to help our groups re-open agricultural lands, we have partnered with the traditional and cultural leaders to perform traditional cleansing ceremonies.
Leadership and Conflict Resolution
GRG-sponsored groups have identified the need for more leadership and capacity building in order to keep peace in their communities. In 2015, GRG expanded its trainings with a new leadership initiative for our 21 groups. Strong leadership skills are essential to overcoming mistrust and divisions among group members. Through exchange visits our strongest groups and weakest groups are able to meet and exchange ideas. In this way GRG groups are able to mentor one another and learn more about becoming leaders within their community.
In 2013, GRG partnered with the land board in Kitgum to train groups on peaceful land conflict resolution. Since the end of the war, land conflicts are a major source of tension and often result in violence between neighbors or within extended families. Our trainings engaged groups in designing local solutions to resolve local land disputes, sensitizing them on the legal process to resolve land disputes and the appropriate government offices for the reporting and resolution of land disputes. GRG was a finalist in the Tomorrow Peace-builders competition for its work on peaceful land resolution in 2014.