Conflict between nomads and cultivators in Uganda

or wanderers are members of a tribe roaming in search of pasture and water for
their livestock. Their way of life contrasts fundamentally with that of cultivators,
leading to conflicts when the two cultures interact. Nomads live essentially in
barren land and hostile climate causing them to move and fight frequently among
themselves and between them and sedentary groups.

history of interaction between sedentary and pastoral tribes like those of
Central Asia is full of examples of how settled communities were
periodically disrupted and plundered by restless and poverty-stricken nomadic
invaders who destroyed more than they constructed. During Mongolian expansion,
the most sophisticated civilizations of the Muslim and the Chinese world suffered
the worst.

in some cases sedentary people resisted through defensive mechanisms such as
Great Wall of China and drove off the invaders.

are also stories that circumstances such as internal division, lack of energy among
nomads or stiffening resistance of settled groups caused the invaders to give
up fighting and to settle and become assimilated into the communities they had

people were generally poorer than those who lived in rich valleys in the
Middle East, North Africa, India and China. These areas of civilizations were irresistible
magnets to the nomads who destroyed properties like irrigation structures. Thus,
Eurasian history is in large part the history of rise and fall of great
civilizations with nomads playing a major part. 

In Africa nomadic movements have led to conflicts with adjacent agricultural populations.
Stories of crop destruction by livestock and fighting over land ownership are
common in
Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Sudan and Uganda, among others. Conflicts tend to intensify during
prolonged dry spells which reduce pastures and water supplies forcing herders
to invade sedentary communities. Or nomads deliberately graze in gardens to
force the cultivators to leave so they can expand their pastures.

In Sudan ‘Green Wars’ have become common. Historically, Arab
pastoralists migrated southwards into areas inhabited by sedentary people only
after harvest. With increasing droughts and shortage of pastures and water,
livestock  has begun to move before
harvest is completed, resulting in the destruction of un-harvested crops, leading
to conflicts and loss of lives, displacement of others and destruction of

of Fulani pastoralists with large herds into northern
Ghana has led to serious conflicts between them and
indigenous cultivators. The conflicts have developed to such a level that
nomadic Fulani herdsmen are arming themselves with sophisticated weapons to
confront local farming communities that have become impatient with crop devastation
by roaming livestock. 

In Uganda, nomads have roamed the savanna stretch from
south-west to north-east causing conflict with local communities along the way.

in western
Uganda the situation has deteriorated since the arrival in
the early 1960s of Tutsi refugees with large herds of cattle. By 1963, some
35,000 refugees with 15,000 head of cattle had arrived. The numbers of both populations
increased afterwards.

have at times forced their way into national parks raising tensions with park
authorities. In one case their removal was so bad that it amounted to gross
violation of their human rights.  

promotion of herding including that of goats is contributing to rapid environmental
degradation. If not checked, it could lead to further conflicts as dwindling land
frontier, pastures and water supplies force nomads to invade sedentary communities.

condemnation of nomads’ archaic behavior is necessary but not sufficient for
resolving the problem. Applying provisions of the Constitution to justify
mobility and settling anywhere in the country including on land temporarily
unoccupied for security reasons will make matters worse eventually.

government has good ideas regarding solving the nomad problem, action has
fallen far short of pronouncements. What is clear is that the conflict will not
go away on its own. Government’s genuine intervention is the answer or conflict
will intensify with adverse political, economic and social consequences.

there are success stories in
Uganda that can be emulated. Some nomads have already converted
to a sedentary way of life. They have introduced zero grazing, diversified into
crop cultivation and commerce and are living much better than before.
Government should facilitate the remaining nomads settle so that everyone can
begin to enjoy peace and prosperity.