The Security and production program: A critical review


Dr. James Basil Okee-Obong

Dr. James Basil Okee-Obong

In June 2003, the then Presidential advisor on Political and Military Affairs in northern Uganda, Lt Gen Salim Saleh[1] unveiled a blue-print for ending the LRA insurgency with a price tag of Shs 4bn, entitled ‘Security and Production Programme’ (SPP).

[2] Saleh’s security and development concept, envisages setting up economic projects to ‘empower’ the people of the Acholi sub region with a security element through which “people will be trained and adequately facilitated to provide their immediate security, leaving the army to pursue rebels at large without being reduced to guarding homesteads”. Gen Salim Saleh has defended his Sh4b plan contending that his Security and Production Programme (SPP) is “counter-hunger, counter-insurgency, counter-redundancy and ultimately counter- poverty”, and would turn the displaced camps into settlements with military detachments and provide water points, schools, police, health centres, and other services.” In apparent reference to this programme, President Yoweri Museveni is reported to have earlier on told the participants of a public dialogue at the International Conference Centre in Kampala, that there was need for mechanised agriculture around the protected camps to supplement relief food and for the displaced to earn income.[3]

{div float:left}{module Google Sq}{/div}However, the SPP is a controversial project which has met criticism from both the Acholi[4]and a section of the media[5] . During the public dialogue in which Saleh defended his proposal, the majority of participants openly expressed their reservation to the proposal, but instead expressed their interest for immediate peace and an end to the war. They wanted Government to increase military pressure on Kony to force him to negotiate and end the war.[6] The Member of Parliament for Aswa Country, Hon. Reagan Okumu, in a strongly worded letter to Gen Salim Saleh, questioned the gist of the project and criticised its premises and the approach used to develop it. As for the Acholi Diaspora, the overwhelming majority have passionately rejected Saleh’s grand scheme. They see it as a “sinister move by the Government to institutionalise the internally displaced people’s camps”; and demand that the Government dismantle them immediately.[7] Acholi’s disenchantment with the SPP was best summarised by the land administration expert and former MP, Mr Livingstone Okello Okello during an Acholi Economic Consultation Meeting in London in August 2005, when he asked, “..If the camps were to be turned into permanent settlements or even towns as some people seemed to be working for, what would happen to the entire Acholi-land, which now looks abandoned? Was this SPP a clever or tricky way of opening up Acholi-land to foreign investors?..” [8]

Reading from the reported positive development in the security situation in the sub-region[9] , the recent appointment of Gen Salim Saleh as Advisor to the President, would suggest that the President is convinced his concept is feasible and viable, irrespective of the critical voices that have been sounded.[10] From the outset, Gen Saleh’s courageous intellectual effort to deal with the two decades endemic violent conflict in Northern Uganda should be commended. His seminal papers offer a rare opportunity for a discussion of a NRM government’s Northern Uganda policy, since its implementation will have far reaching consequences on the conflict and on the lives and welfare of the people in Acholi. But more importantly, I believe discussion of its conformity with some basic modern development principles – Rights Based Approach (RBA) as advocated for in the UN Millennium Development Declaration and Goal (MDG), to which Uganda is a signatory; and the existing situation in Acholi should help improve it and avoid the common pitfalls of numerous earlier attempts, which were based on questionable ideological, conceptualisation and methodological underpinnings.

The discussion is divided into five parts. Part one examines the origin and ideological underpinning of the SPP concept and its relationship to the RBA. In Part two, discussion is made of the problem identification basis of the SPP. And in Part three and four, discussion is made of the different views held about SPP as a benevolent or compassionate capitalist system and its implication for the development guaranteeing of security in Acholi. Conclusion and way forward is proposed in Part five.

Origin and ideological underpinning of the SPP concept

Origin of SPP

The idea of the SPP concept for security and production in Acholi sub-region can be traced back to two seminal papers written by Gen. Salim Saleh – namely the “Divinity Union Limited” which outlined ‘the grain belt food basket and security concept’; and the second, a modification of the first, ‘the Security Production Programme’ – unlike its predecessor, it discusses the question of security and production in the IDP camps of Acholi sub-region. Both papers can be found on the Divinity Unity Limited and Saleh Foundation for Humanity websites.[11]

The ideological underpinning of SPP vis-à-vis Rights Based Approach (RBA)

The ideology behind any development programme can be recognised to be the first important step in its planning and development, because it impinges on a number of issues surrounding structuring, institutionalisation, resource mobilisation and implementation. But is this also the case with the SPP? Perusing through the documents, one notices that, like most strategic plans developed on the basis of the ‘modernisation theory’ or the ‘transfer of technology or ideas’ or the ‘Needs Approach’, the SPP lacks a clear ideological underpinning of its own specifically tailored to suit its implementation in the Acholi sub-region. It lingers between militarism and ‘benevolent capitalism’, coached in the ‘top-bottom’ development paradigms of ‘modernisation theory’ (i.e. borrowing from the Israeli Kibbutz[12] ), the ‘spill over effect theory’ (i.e. poor people improve their lives from the trickle down effect of capitalist modes of production, in this case large scale commercial farmers), and the ‘Needs approach’[13] .

Unlike the currently accepted Rights Based Approach (RBA) to development, these approaches work around outcome goals only; they recognise needs as valid claims (in this case Acholi needs for livelihood survival which has been destroyed by encampment); empowerment is not their concern when it comes to meeting the people’s needs (the people are workers for the commercial farmers); they accept charity as the driving motivation for meeting the people’s needs (Saleh is described in the document as a compassionate capitalist); they focus on manifestation of problems and immediate causes of problems (concern is food shortage in the IDP camps and in the world – security is a secondary cause); and lastly, they focus on social contexts with little emphasis on policy (concern is meeting the social needs – food and money needs and not long-term perspective of the people).

Furthermore, one notices that the inspiration to turn the IDP camps of Northern Uganda into security production programme units (SPPU) derives from the authors’ exposure to the Israeli kibbutz(im). In the implementation of the project, it states; “The project will be run on a cooperative basis, drawing useful experience from the Israeli’s kibbutzim and moshav(im) system which worked effectively for strategic defensive purposes and at the same time providing over 70 percent of the Israel’s food output”.[14] Unfortunately, the authors do not tell the readers the factors behind the formation and success of the Israeli Kibbutzim and moshavim and how this could be relevant to the situation in Northern Uganda – i.e. the origin and the ideology of the Kibbutzim. They only point out the military and production success.

Since Israelis are greatly admired in Uganda because of their military prowess[15] and advances in technology, most Ugandan readers would be inclined to believe that any transfer of ideas from the Kibbutz defence agricultural settlement is good for the country. But this is questionable, because of the different problems, ideologies and methods of work. So what is this Kibbutz defence agricultural settlements exactly and how relevant is it to solving the Northern Uganda political crisis?

Israel Kibbutz defence agricultural settlement in Review

The origin of the Israeli kibbutzim can be to the emergence of Jewish nationalism (Zionism) in 19th Century in Russia. It started as movement for the creation of a Jewish homeland in the cradle of Judaism, Palestine, or, as Jews called it, Eretz Yisrael. Zionism had economic and cultural aspects; and Judaism is an agricultural religion. The first Kibbutz (Degania) was founded in 1910. Its chief economic program was for Jews to abandon inn-keeping, pawn-brokering, and petty selling in favour of a return to the land and its communal cultivation. In addition to having a difficult climate and relatively infertile soils, Ottoman Palestine was in some ways a lawless place. Nomadic Bedouins would frequently raid farms and settled areas. Sabotage of irrigation canals and burning of crops were also common. Living collectively was simply the most logical way to be secure in an unwelcoming land. Sources of its appeal were self transformation, physical security and social support for immigrant adaptation to a new and sometimes hostile environment. Members of a Kibbutz shared three basic premises: co-operative living – all property collectively owned, all work collectively organised, and all living circumstances collectively organised (meals, education, ‘cultural activities’ recreation, etc), and ideally decision making process and administrative duties decided communally.

It is an undisputed fact that the Kibbutz system has contributed significantly to Israel’s security and development, however, in the matter of security, it has not been able to guarantee total security, let alone the fact that it is at the centre of the Israeli – Palestinian conflict. Not only that, many times, the economic success of the kibbutzim have been over romanticised; which could be misleading. When it comes to the financial implications of its operations most of the Kibbutzim were highly subsidized from the Jewish community, particularly the Jewish Agency (JA) and the State of Israel as they were economically insolvent and throughout their life span they were confronted with problems of economic survival.[16] They were provided with all necessary start-up funds when they were first founded. What was not originally anticipated was that they would “always be on the government dole, subsidized. The State of Israel had always to come in to meet the deficit. The exact amounts of government support are ‘not known’.

Towards mid 1990s, it was clear that the Kibbutz cooperative agricultural experiments in Israel had economically failed and several reasons have been found to be responsible for the failure (Gordon, 1998). First was the lack of mechanisms to reward exceptional effort, jobs requiring special skills, or additional work time. All members earned the same compensation regardless of what work they did or how well they did it. Conversely, members were not sanctioned for doing poor work. Secondly, although the kibbutzim were important units of production, they were not expected to be economically viable. Smallholders are dependent on the fruits of their labour. If they fail, there was no one to back them up. In a study of moshavim economies, it was found that “expectation of emergency aid from public agencies weakens the pressure felt by members and management to conduct the cooperative’s affairs in an efficient, orderly, and disciplined manner” (Gordon, 1998). Based on these findings, Gordon came to the following observations: One, that the kibbutzim do meet the general expectation that cooperative farming and intensive agriculture do not go together. The kibbutzim may well be producing food, but they are doing it at great expense to the Israeli government and various international Zionist organizations. Second, that there must be some other purpose served by the kibbutzim in order for the government to continue to support a failing enterprise – namely the political and defensive role of agricultural settlement patterns in areas where ethnic control over land use rights is contested. She concluded that, “The establishment and continued existence of the kibbutzim is best explained in similar terms of territorial claims to land and defence of borders”.

Strange but true: because of being greatly indebt, in 2001, kibbutz Mishmar David in central Israel voted, 50 to 1, to dissolve. Deeply in debt (like most kibbutzim), it decided to sell off some land to settle its obligations and then to give each member tide to his own dwelling and a share in the kibbutz’s factory. This, noted the Jerusalem Post, made Mishmar David “a pioneer among kibbutzim,” the first to dismantle itself in order to become “an ordinary Israeli community.”

Relevance of Kibbutz cooperative experiences in solving the Northern Uganda problem

In drawing useful experiences from the Israeli’s kibbutzim and moshav(im) systems, experts tell us that the historical experiences and conditions should be similar. But is this the case with the problem the SPP concept has analysed in Acholi sub-region? Are the Acholi seeking to create an Acholi homeland in Acholi as if they do not own the land like the Jews? Do the Acholi see the SPP as a national inspiration (nationalism)? Do the Acholi see the SPP as one of the various approaches to solving what some have referred to as ‘the Acholi problem’? In the SPP, are the Acholi trying to preserve or regain their culture? Does the SPP provide any appeals guaranteeing self transformation, physical security and social support in the hostile IDP camp environment? Finally, is an economic programme the priority of the Acholi people right now? The questions are endless and the answers are not clear cut. Thus, unless the author provides convincing answers to the above questions, the long-term success of the programme and its sustainability is questionable as its implementation can only be undertaken under conditions tantamounting to ‘forced labour’, which was not the case with the Kibbutz in Israel. They were heavily funded and built-up, and in many cases people freely occupied them (sometimes with inducement from the state), which is in stark contrast to the situation pertaining to the IDP camps in Acholi.

A major limitation of the application of the ‘Modernisation theory’ is the problem of incompatibility of development ideology, circumstances, resources and methods of implementation. Such limitations have great implication for the application of the kibbutz principles and methods of organisation in Northern Uganda. This is because, the Acholi are not occupying anybody’s land so that they have to form the Israeli king of defence agricultural settlements. Secondly, the Acholi have neither a “Promised Land” like the Jews nor an aspiration, hope and believe that drives Zionism, for which they have to fight. The rebellion which started in Acholi in 1986 has little if anything to do with land or economic deprivation as outline in the SPP concept; it has its roots in the national political question of injustice, marginalisation and human rights. Would putting them in security production camps solve these problems?

There are therefore great risks in “drawing useful experience from the Israeli’s kibbutzim and moshav(im) system” to solve the political, development and human rights questions that has haunted the area since colonial times. This problem is further aggravated by the failure of the NRM/A right from 1986 to market itself as an attractive political alternative. To the contrary, they engaged in and still continue to engage in the victor mentality twenty years after they have established their firm military grip on the sub-region. This arrogant attitude is also reflected in the introductory part of the SPP concept document which attempted to provide an analysis of the background to the LRA rebellion and identification of the factors that have perpetuated it, which is the rational basis for developing the SPP project.

Questionable Problem Analysis

Economic backwardness and plundering as a way of life for the youths of Acholi

The analysis of the causes of the insurgency in Acholi as provided for in the SPP document is questionable. If at all the author consulted the beneficiaries, it is unlikely that Acholi in their right sense would accept the argument that loss of economic means of livelihood was the driving force behind the insurgency. “The insurgency therefore created an alternative way of life of looting and plundering as a means of accessing wealth,” Saleh argues.[17] This is where Saleh’s proposal starts off on the mistaken premise that the northern insurgency is economically driven and ignores – or downplays – perhaps the most important question, the political and human rights questions – democracy and political consensus, transparency and accountability at a wider national level and respect for human rights.

The assertion that the insurgency created an alternative way of life of looting and plundering as a means of accessing wealth for the Acholi youth is bordering on insulting the Acholi, and particularly the abducted children who should have in the first place been protected by the ‘mighty’ NRA/UPDF. If all the LRA fighters and their families are summed up since 1987, they are estimated to be only about 5,000 – 10,000, this is less than one percent (0.3 – 0.7%) of the 1.5 million Acholi. More specifically, when categorised according to the child age group, they form only about 0.7% of the estimated 750,000 children aged 8 – 18 years. Realistically therefore, this value cannot be used to generalise that plundering is a way of life for the youths in Acholi sub-region and it is therefore an important justification for the project. Such a contention could be interpreted as the usual NRM ‘hate campaign against the Acholi people’ since there is no substance in such generalisation and by implication it can not be used to argue for an important security and production project.

Granted that economic ‘backwardness and plundering was a way of life for the youths of Acholi’, does SPP which is based on the Needs Approach (AP) provide an alternative way of addressing this problem? I am doubtful. This is because, unlike the Rights Based Approach (RBA), Needs Approach does not consider poverty (Economic backwardness) as more than lack of resources such as food, health, education, information, participation, etc.., – i.e. as a manifestation of exclusion and powerlessness; it does not consider the realisation of human rights and the process of development as not distinct; in other words, it does not recognise that development is a human right.[18] If it did, would it still be recommending that Acholi should continue living in the dehumanising conditions of the IDP camps and engaged in agricultural production?

Under International Humanitarian Law, continued holding of people in IDP camps other than for the express purpose of protecting their lives is a gross violation of human rights and a punishable crime. By ratifying the international human rights treaties, Uganda agreed to be bounded by this international legal obligation. Other than disbanding the IDP camps and developing a new mode of live in Acholi, SPP proposes its institutionalisation. Interpreted differently, the SPP could in the end be seen by the Acholi as a confirmation of NRM’s occupation and subjugation of the people as mere producers of the ‘national food basket’. In the short-run this perception may have no effects on the much sought “peace and stability”, but in the long-run it could generate a kind of “Acholi nationalism” and opposition to the ‘occupier’ and the ‘new exploiters’ (the commercial farmers) which the government of the day could find difficult to bring under control without continued violence, thus pushing the region back to square one.

The problem of endemic corruption

It is generally agreed that corruption with impunity is a major disincentive to development and in project risk analysis it is taken into serious consideration. This was not the case in the SPP – the problem of wanton corruption in public domain[19] was deliberately omitted; an indication that the diagnosis of the factors that have perpetuated the LRA insurgency is inadequate. For close to two decades, the Government has treated Uganda’s corruption gurus with velvet gloves. Various IDP schemes have not been spared from this corruption. A familiar example which immediately comes to mind is the 1998 Vice President Kazibwe’s ‘IDP agricultural production scheme. The scheme is best remembered for doing incomplete shoddy work. For Kazibwe, the tens of idle tractors packed waiting for some work were now good enough for her scheme; she had to bring her own tractors and workers to do the shoddy work! The scheme flopped, the nation was swindled and millions of shillings went down the drain.

The humanitarian disaster in the IDP camps: the priority problem

The fact that the World Conference on Human Rights reaffirmed by consensus the right to development as a universal and inalienable right and an integral part of fundamental human rights way back in 1993, and more than 12 years after, the authors of the SPP promise to provide this right to the people in the IDP camps of Northern Uganda through their programme raises many questions about the Government’s commitment to its international obligations; more particularly at the moment when the humanitarian situation is at catastrophe level (some have called it genocide): the mortality situation has been categorised as an emergency out of control[20] : the Crude Mortality Rate (CMR) in IDP camps is 2.8/10,000 people per day for the general population, and 5.4/10,000 children per day.[21] IMR stands at a staggering 172/1000 (about twice the national average of 97/1000)[22] ; Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) rates ranges from 13 to 20%[23] ) and Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) rates ranges from 6 to 9%;[24] HIV infection rate stands at 10 – 15% (11.6%).[25] The maternal mortality rate is also higher in Gulu (700:100,000) than in the rest of the country (national rate is 506:100,000[26] ). In the IDP camps, there is a very high rate of traumatisation (30 – 55%)[27] and suicide (2 – 3 per day).

The main causes of this unique and heart breaking human rights violation have been identified, in order of seriousness, as: extremely poor sanitation and hygiene situations; lack of water and food supplies; lack of access to essential health care services due to lack of treatment, few health workers, midwives and medical supplies. Only 29% of the population have access to health centres; very high prevalence of HIV infection; and violent deaths due to insecurity (by both LRA and some members of the UPDF). In this respect, the major pressing problem in Acholi at the moment is the high mortality rate in the IDP camps caused by the policy of encampment and disempowerment of the people compared to the LRA terror per se.[28] After all, the LRA still continue to attack camps and disrupt life. The mind boggling question for a strategic intervention planner is, ‘does dealing with the above problems really need a SPP in order to “turn the displaced camps into settlements with military detachments and provide water points, schools, police, health centres, and other services”? Or does it simply need the political will to correct the administrative weaknesses in the army and the public service and improve coordination? Many observers believe, that outside the comprehensive agricultural component, the SPP is only ‘re-packaging’ what has already been tried since 1986 with little success, i.e. the use of Local Defence Units (LDUs), Arrow Groups and later Home Guards (HG).

Will SPU guarantee total security and peace?

One of the major arguments for the SPP is that it is an ‘effective counter-insurgency’ strategy, as shown by its application in Israel. Its application is based on the assumption that there will always be insecurity for one reason or another like for the settler Jews. But the Acholi are not settlers, better still, the government has made numerous proclamations that they have already defeated the LRA, so what is the need of a SPP? Why talk of security rather than total peace and full enjoyment of fundamental human rights which the Acholi have been demanding for the last 20 years?

Secondly, while it is true that the Kibbutz system has played a significant role in the State of Israel’s defence, it has not managed to provide total security, let alone solve the conflict with the Palestinians. Frequently, Kibbutzim and Moshavim have come under attack from Palestinians, despite the high-tech and existence of civil defence forces. If the Kibbutzim were the solution to insecurity, questions need to be asked why the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (also known as the father of Jewish Occupation) after many years of hard-line settler politics has finally changed course and engaged in peace dialogue with the Palestinians as the only alternative to peace, to the extent that he disbanded some of the Jewish settlements in Gaza? The conclusion is that the Kibbutzim have not guaranteed security and peace in Israel, and it will not do in Acholi either, given that Uganda is a very poor aid dependant nation. Can the Ugandan leadership and the author of SPP instead borrow this very progressive idea, other than the transfer of ideas and instruments of continued violence – the Kibbutz? Would Gen Saleh in 20 – 30 years to come want to be another? Perhaps it is not necessary.

On the local front, when one studies the SPP security component, one notices a clear contradiction between what the NRM preaches and its practice. NRM more than any other government in the history of Uganda has emphasised the British colonial abuse of the people of Northern Uganda through recruitment in the armed forces[29] , and yet in terms of numbers, the NRM has not only massively recruited them in the UPDF, but has literally militarised the whole region. It therefore defeats rational thinking why, if they are critical of the British colonialists or Obote and the Okellos for recruiting northerners in the armed forces, which is one of the justification of this programme, as it is one of the main causes of ‘economic backwardness and root cause of the conflict’, they now want to militarise the whole Acholi in a form of economic – military production system? This, to many observers in Acholi is unacceptable. If the problem is shortage of soldiers to guard the camps and pursue LRA, one is tempted to ask; what is the use of the reserve force headed by Gen Salim Saleh then? Or, it is the case that their duty is not to protect Ugandans in the IDP camps of Northern Uganda but only to fight foreign wars?

Not only that, putting civilian workers under the watchful eye and control of armed men (even if it is argued is their children), particularly after nearly 10 years of experiences of gross abuses by the armed personnel[30] in the IDP camps is something which worries many observers. It reminds one of the Russian occupation of Vienna, Austria, after the defeat of Nazi Germany. The victorious Russian troops had absolute power. They abused the voluntary reconstruction workers at will and little was done to discipline them. It is therefore doubtful if in only three years, the civil defence personnel to be recruited will be any holier than the present ones stationed in the camps.

Is SPP an experiment in ‘benevolent capitalism’?

The architect of the SPP and Divinity Union Ltd (DUL) presents the project as a unique business, developmental and philanthropic consortium with a “philosophical premise of holistic and integrated symbiosis of compassionate capitalism which harnesses the best of free enterprise to unleash indigenous entrepreneurship empowerment and development”.[31]Granted, but has there ever been any compassionate capitalism ‘technically referred to as benevolent capitalism’? Although there have been attempts to create one since the 1700 by Owen (1771-1858), but the attempts have miserably failed. Believing that it is possible is like believing that there is ‘freedom in Serfdom’. This is because the ideological dogma of capitalism emphasises maximisation of profits and minimisation of costs, and investment in innovative competitiveness.[32] Where does this leave SPP?

Although Gen. Salim Saleh’s business acumen and acts of ‘benevolence’ are undoubted, economists and social policy experts point out that considering him as ‘a benevolent capitalist’ should be made with caution. This is because capitalists only invest where there is a profit (or political capital), and they always try to minimise costs – the costs are usually due to labour (wage) bills and social programmes, which they avoid by using cheap labour and scaling down or cutting-off social programmes completely. If Saleh’s SPP is truly a benevolent project, one would expect to see in the proposed outcomes, elements which address the conditions of labour, and the food, health and social needs of the people in the IDP camps. If it does not, then it will not be any different from the colonial economic policy which focused on the production of market or cash crops.[33] The later is most likely when one critically examines the SPP choice of crops, namely maize, beans, upland rice and sorghum crops. This raises suspicion about the real motive of the project. Is it to help the near starving people in the IDP camps, or is it intended to line-up the pockets of the commercial farmers? If it is the former, then the traditional Acholi crops which have been confirmed by nutrition experts as very nutritious are not those proposed by the project; namely: cereals such as millet (Kal) and sorghum (Kabir); roots such as cassava (Gwana) and sweet potatoes (Layata); Legumes such as beans (Muranga), black eyed beans (Ngor), and pigeon peas (Lapena or Lupindu); oils such as sesame (Nyim), groundnuts (Pul) and sheer (moo yaa).

Maize (Anyogi or Luceri or Mugayiwa) does not appear in this listing of Acholi staple foods because it is considered by most Acholi as a famine crop. If it is cultivated, then it is mostly for brewing or sold to produce buyers in the market. What is known is that currently, there is strong international demand for it in Central and Southern Africa (including Kenya) because of the famine and it is their staple food. Unlike the people of Southern Sudan, the Acholi consider sorghum a famine crop, but due to the increasing bouts of drought, it is being grown for mixing with millet for use as bread (Kwon). In Southern Sudan, however, it is a lucrative crop, since it is staple food. Rice (Mucele) is an international crop associated with the malnutrition disease Rickets in the Asian.

Is the SPP’s choice of crops to be grown just a coincidence? It is unlikely, because the DUL document emphasises production for the large market caused by the current global grain deficit as projected by World Food Programme, Food and Agricultural Organization, and the on-going crisis in the Great Lakes Region, which are likely to impact on food security adversely in the future other than the immediate plight of the people in the IDP camps, namely the ready markets in the Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, in addition to the United Nations, World Food Programme, Red Cross and other humanitarian agencies, providing emergency food supply programmes. The real intention of the SPP is stated in the following statement:

As domestic and regional demand grows in related fields of livestock feeds, human consumption and emergency relief services, the corresponding production of grain will serve a growing market until surplus is attained towards a national grain reserve. Divinity Union Limited intends to achieve at least a two year national reserve in five years before Uganda can influence the regional and continental (grain) commodity exchange market. [34]

What emerges from a critical examination of the project output suggests an inherent contradiction between the expected results of SPP, i.e. “transformation of the population from dependence on food aid to production of own food….improved feeding especially for children and pregnant women, which will reduce disease and mortality rates” and the identified market or cash oriented crop outputs as opposed to high nutrition food crops to be produced for the three years project period. One would have expected that in the first year (two planting seasons, the emphasis would be on food crops of high nutrition value, other than market or cash crops. Where is the ‘compassion’ in this form of capitalism? Humanitarians recall the tragic Ethiopian famine of the 1980s and the infamous settlement programmes of the Mengistu regime. While Ethiopians were starving to death and malnourished children were being fed on by Vultures, Ethiopia was one of the world’s biggest flower exporter to Europe!

Furthermore, the economic interests of the architects of SPP raise serious ethical concerns. Should the deprived suffering people of IDP camps of Acholi produce the national grain reserve while other peaceful regions with similar climatic conditions are not involved? Is the government insured from future legal action such as those instituted by the Jews against companies which exploited Jewish labour during the Nazi fascism? The SPP experiment in ‘benevolent capitalism’ in a situation in which the people are desperately in need of security to life and basic human needs is a conceptual mix-up and could in the end be self-defeating. What is portrayed as compassionate activities could turnout to be one of the many exploitative self-enrichment schemes.

The implication of SPP for security and production in Acholi

Having outlined the key feature of the SPP concept let me now turn to discussing its implication for security, production and sustainable peace in Northern Uganda and Acholi in particular. Since the SPP is based on the ‘Modernisation theory’ or ‘Needs Approach’ and it focuses on results and physical output – in this case security and production – and not on processes, institutions and policy it is unlikely to change much in Northern Uganda. Such approaches based on the subjective view of the planner(s), as the development work expert Britha Mikkelsen (2004) has observed, tend to counteract flexibility and people’s participation because they are not based on comprehensive analysis of historical development processes, but are set within a management culture which disregards participatory development; in this regard they are unlikely and will never guarantee peace, sustainable livelihood and dignity for the people of Acholi.

Not only that, the fact that SPP lacks an ideological basis of its own makes its conceptualisation and operationalisation weak, because it does not present a consensual cause of and factors sustaining the problem – i.e. the LRA war. It also fails to demonstrate any direct and essential casual relationships between sustainable peace, security and security production. That is to say, it fails to formulate the problem in a way that action can be taken. To identify the problem as security and lack of food and poor conditions in the IDP camps in technical terms is not sufficient, because a problem is not the absence of a solution but an existing negative state. In the case of Acholi sub-region, the situation is a humanitarian disaster third degree – where there is a very high unacceptable rate of infant mortality, malnutrition, crude death rates, human rights abuses and violence against children and women, and cultural extinction of a people, and not lack of security and poverty. LRA insecurity is only one of the factors. The people in the IDP camps know very well that the cause of this sorry state is both LRA and the UPDF policy of forced encampment, while the government deliberately ignores their plight by refusing to declare the region a disaster region against several Parliamentary resolutions.[35]

The proponents of this project therefore, need to move with cautious when making ambitious assumptions of “winning the hearts and minds of the population”[36] and their subsequent willingness, possible acceptance and participation in the project based on the fact that for close to a decade now (1996 – 2006) they have not revolted (though complained) about their continued stay under the most dehumanising situation in the IDP camps. Right from the start, the architects of encampment had promised them that it would be a short-term stay simply to project them from LRA brutality. The mere fact that the people of Teso and Lango have vehemently demanded to return to their village homes should be a good indicator that the people of Acholi up-till now have cooperated with the Government on this scheme. How will they be convinced after the Teso and Langi have returned to their homes[37] that their case is a different case and that life in the new IDP camps (Security and Production Unites (SPPU)) is good for them?

It is not clear how SPP will harmonise the conflict between serving the immediate interest of the people in the IDP camps and its economic ambition of turning Acholi into ‘Uganda’s breadbasket’. Where is the evidence that the people in IDP camps want to be ‘Uganda’s breadbasket’? The common view is that people want the war to end immediately so that they can return to their villages and not stay in camps. This lack of linkage between the interest of the architect of SPP and the primary beneficiaries is likely to undermine the success of the programme as it has great implication for the local people’s acceptance, participation and support for the project. As the saying goes, “you can take a camel to the well to drink water, but you cannot force it to drink”!

Similarly, unless serious consideration is given to dealing with the problem of endemic corruption, the Sh.4.7 billion is unlikely to do any meaningful work in building roads, buying food and medicines, and eventually turn Acholi sub-region into ‘Uganda’s food basket’[38] ; but above all, it is unlikely to provide and guarantee permanent peace, instead it could continue to elicit fear and distrust amongst the local population about the motives of this project. This fear was echoed in the Monitor editorial of 29th June 2003:

So long as there is lack of political consensus and trust, attempts to build the economy in the north will come to naught because a few rebel raids will destroy all. And, with the level of corruption in Uganda – and in the military especially, you cannot discount the fear that many people along the bureaucracy will simply stand in the queue to line their pockets with this money to the disadvantage of the intended beneficiaries[39] .

Conclusion and the way forward

This paper has attempted a critical review of the Security Production Programme (SPP) concept and the author hopes that it has greatly enriched the discussion on Governments new economic approach to deal with the illusive peace in Northern Uganda and in Acholi in particular. Most importantly, the author hopes that the critical review has opened new grounds for further discussion and improvement of development ideas and programmes intended for Northern Uganda within the framework of the cherished UN Millennium Development Goal’s ‘Rights Based Approach’, which emphasises peace and development as a inalienable human right that the people should demand from the state and the international community and not be given as a favour from the individual good will of ‘benevolent capitalists’ or politicians.

The immediate security and human rights concern is the appalling humanitarian crisis in Northern Uganda – i.e. saving lives by addressing the appalling humanitarian condition in the IDP camps. Thereafter, a clearly thought out and discussed security and development concept which hinges on the ‘Rights Based Approach’ (RBA) and not the ‘Needs Approach’ as proposed by SPP should be developed. RBA will enable the focus on outcomes and process goals (is timeless – not a quick fix solution approach); it will lead to the recognition that rights to development and peace always imply obligations of the state (and not the Acholi to protect and develop themselves or expect the benevolent will of a compassionate capitalist); it shall also enable recognition that rights can only be realised with empowerment (i.e., the beneficiaries owning the institution, process, outcomes and benefits and they have the right to decision what to do with it); it shall enable focusing on structural causes of the problems, as well as manifestations and immediate causes of problems that should be addressed by comprehensive institutional frameworks that outlive individuals and regimes (not concerned with meeting the basic survival needs – such as food and money); and lastly, it shall enable a holistic focus on social, economic, cultural, civil and political context and policy oriented manner (not social contexts with little emphasis on policy but individual good will).

Having made these observations, what is the way forward?. I propose the following:

Genuine olive branch

What is critical is for the government to offer a genuine olive branch to the rebels and agree, unconditionally, to peace talks in a neutral country under the aegis of neutral mediators. Only such a move truly stands a chance of bringing peace and prosperity to northern Uganda which guns and money have failed to do in the last 20 years.

A Rights Based Approach to peace and development

The fact that the overwhelming majority of the Acholi people are opposed to the IDP and their development of as production centres calls for reflection on part of the architects of the SPP. Modern development paradigms being promoted by the United Nations under the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) is Rights Based Approach.

Avoid possible abuse of the labour of the people in the IDPs

While the idea of providing opportunity for the people in IDP camps to earn some money. The SPP concept should therefore clearly outline the conditions under which the people will be working based on the international labour standards of work; and set up monitoring mechanism to ensure that they are implemented.

Institute flexibility and elicit the beneficiary and stakeholder’s participation

There is need to substitute the ‘planning phobia’ with flexible learning processes with more room for imagination and creativity when dealing with the security and poverty situation in the Acholi sub-region. Any reckless transfer of ideas and technology (modernisation theory or needs approach) based on questionable premises is likely to have a limited impact in the short-run and totally fail in the long-run.

Any proposed security and sustainable livelihood programme should therefore focus on the following factors:

 Values: focus on the values of the stakeholders. It should ask and answer questions like: Where are we heading? Is that desirable? What should be done?

 Power: Relevant questions: Who wins? Who loses? By which means of power? What are the prospects of changing existing power relations (e.g. military, NGO, politician’s control over the people’s life).

 Presence/Engagement: The proposer(s) should be very near (of directly affected by) the problem. He/she should consciously take good note of all reactions and all the positive and negative things said of the problem and proposed solutions. This should create stakeholders who take an interest in the programme. Cosmetic analysis of the problem or deliberate distortion of historical facts as the proposed beneficiaries know it could back-fire and make the proposer(s) part of the problem. On top of this, there is need to use a variety of sources of empirical data in designing any such programme.

 Minutiae: the proposer(s) should start by dealing with the most immediate problem first and then the big one later. This is important for balancing between local priorities and national interests or priorities.

 Use of local resources and practice: The project should focus on the everyday needs and activities, resources and practical knowledge. Use of local resources, knowledge and manpower is more fundamental than discourse and theory (particularly those based on modernisation approaches).

 Context: SPP can only be meaningfully designed in actual context of the situation prevailing in Acholi sub-region and not on some hypothetical assumptions.

 Process analysis and interpretation of the problems: the problem analysis of the situation in Acholi sub-region should focus on the dynamic question of HOW? Rather than on the structural question of WHY? This approach to problem analysis is important for process perspective interpretation.

 Correct historical narrative: Correct historical narrative, including actors and events, and development perspectives, are very important for designing effective interventions.

 Actor/Structure: It is very important to clearly define and show the operational structure of the programme. The focus should be on the level of actors and the level of structures and on their interrelations in order to avoid the problem of dualistic interpretations and duplicative action.

 Dialogue: a cardinal factor for sustainable peace (security) is dialogue and not even security and production programmes. The fundamental objective of any programme aimed at attaining sustainable peace in the region must therefore express itself as public dialogue. This dialogue could take four forms:

 Dialogue with the LRA

 Dialogue with experts, analysts or researchers

 Dialogue with decision-makers and key stakeholders

 Dialogue with the general public

Dr. Okee-Obong is a Development Planner, Demographer, Health Promoter, Social Economist (Poverty Eradication) and a graduate of the Development Study Center, Hebrew University.

[1] He is now a General and Presidential Advisor on the Reconstruction of Northern Uganda, Luwero and Kasese districts).

[2] See “Saleh Wants Shs 4bn To Finish Kony”, The Monitor, 28 June. The document can be found on the internet website of Saleh’s Foundation for Humanity,

[3] See Mugisa, A. & Osike, F. 2003: “Commander Saleh Defends Sh 4b Plan On Kony”. New Vision 24th July 2003. Kampala: The New Vision Publications.

[4] Hon. Ronald Reagan Okumu (MP Aswa County – Gulu district) wrote to Lt Gen Salim Saleh on 15th July 2003.

[5] The Monitor Editor on 29th June 2003 wrote a strongly worded editorial critical of the SPP (see The Monitor, 2003: “Gen. Saleh’s Shs 4bn Magic Wand Won’t Bring Peace”. The Monitor Publications.)

[6] See Mugisa, A. & Osike, F. 2003: “Commander Saleh Defends Sh 4b Plan On Kony”. New Vision 24th July 2003. Kampala: The New Vision Publications.

[7] The majority of views expressed on both internet discussion groups – Acholinet and Acholi Forum. During the discussion on these for a, the overwhelming majority of the discussants expressed rejection of the idea and proposal.

[8] See Okello Okello, 2005: “Agriculture and Land Use: Policy Review, Opportunities and Challenges”, p.6. Paper presented at the Acholi Economic Consultation Forum, London, 26 – 28th August 2005.

[9] President Museveni assured the nation in his 43 Independence Day speech that Kony and LRA were completed annihilated and if he was permitted to cross the ‘Red Line’ by the Government of Sudan, he would finish Kony off in only 30 minutes (see The Daily Monitor, 6th September 2005).

[10] And according to the former Military Spokesman, Lt Col. Batariza, this was one of the main considerations for his appointment as Presidential Advisor on the Reconstruction of Northern Uganda, Luwero and Bundibugyo. (See “what the army reshuffles means” New Vision October 25th, 2005)

[11] See Divinity Union Ltd, 2003: “Security and Production Programme”. p.1.; and Saleh, S. 2003: “Security and Production Programme (SPP): Concept”. p.5. Salim Saleh Foundation for Humanity.

[12] Saleh, S (2003:3-4).

[13] For further discussion, see Britha Mikkelsen (2004): Methods for Development Work and Research: A New Guide for Practitioners.London: SAGE Publications.

[14] Saleh, S. (2003:5).

[15] Particularly after they successful raided Entebbe Airport and rescued Israel hostages in 1976 during the Idi Amin era; including their war victories over their Arab neighbours in the 1960s and 1970s.

[16] Angela Gordon, A. (1998): “The Ecology and Politics of the Kibbutz”. Anthro 4281 Ecological Anthropology. Spring 1998, revised 7 October 1988

[17] Saleh, S. (2003)

[18] The World Conference on Human Rights held in Vienna in 1993, reaffirmed by consensus the right to development as a universal and inalienable right and an integral part of fundamental human rights.

[19] See the report on Purchasing of the Junk Helicopter, Report on Food and Uniform Supplies for the UPDF; Report on Ghost Soldiers in the UPDF; The Sebutinde report on Corruption in the Police Force; the IGG report on corruption in the Department of Education in Gulu district, etc.

[20] When deaths due to the direct impact of war are included, then the figure could be much higher. The KM e-Newsletter impact of the war (death) statistics compiled since June 2004, estimates that to date, 1,064 people have been reported killed by either LRA or UPDF, i.e. about 210 persons per month.

[21] This information is contained in the Medicines sans Frontiers, 2004 report on the situation in the Internally Displaced Camps in Lira and Pader in Northern Uganda.

[22] This information is provided on the District Information Portal, 2004, for Gulu district.

[23] IRIN, 2003 reported on the high malnutrition rate of 31% amongst displaced children in Uganda.

[24] See the US AID, 2004 report on the complex emergency situation in Uganda.

[25] This information was provided in the Uganda Ministry of Health, 2003, HIV/AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Diseases Epidemiological Fact Sheet; The monitor Newsletter (March 1 2005), “HIV Infection Highest in North”.

[26] Huß, S. reports of the humanitarian situation in the report, Human Security Update: Uganda, 2004.

[27] Medicines Sans Frontiers – Holland reports on the Pader mental health community crisis.

[28] For detailed discussion see Obalim, O.J; 2005: Displacement and Disempowerment in Northern Uganda: The challenges of survival and sustainable livelihood. A Field study report (manuscript) London: Kacoke Madit Secretariat.

[29] This argument is also used as a justification for the programme (see Saleh, S. 2003:4).

[30] See HURIFO report, “Caught between two fires”, see Human Rights Watch, (HRW), Report, “Uprooted and Forgotten: Impunity and Human Rights Abuses in Northern Uganda” – September 2005, Vol. 17, No.12(A).

[31] See Divinity Union Ltd, 2003: “Security and Production Programme”. p.1.

[32] See Adam Smith, 1784: The Wealth of Nations. Publishers: Macmillan and Co. Location: London.

[33] The British colonialist emphasised the growing of export oriented cash crops such as cotton and tobacco in the sub-region.

[34] See Divinity Union Ltd, 2003: “Security and Production Programme”. p.3.

[35] The Minister in Charge of Security, re-affirms the Government’s rejection to declare the North a disaster region while responding to Odongo Otto’s article “Northern Uganda is a Disaster Area,” New Vision of Nov. 7, 2005 (Okullu, B.A. (2005): “Let us deal with our problem”, 8.Dec. 2005.

[36] This is one of the justifications for using SPP to solve the security problem (see Saleh, S. (2003:4).

[37] Museveni gave directives for IDP camps in Teso and Lango to be disbanded by December this year (See Mulondo, E. (2005): “Museveni wants IDP disbanded”. The New Vision of 6-10. Nov. 2005).

[38] The Divinity Union Limited (DUL) working document emphasises “agricultural revolution” through large scale investment in production through mechanisation and commercialisation and the cooperation with small holders, initially targeting Northern Uganda (Divinity Union Ltd, 2003).

[39] See The Monitor editorial of 29th June 2003, “Gen. Saleh’s Shs 4bn Magic Wand Won’t Bring Peace”. Kampala: The Monitor Publications.