Joshua Wakita drives a boda-boda, a motorcycle taxi, in Kampala, Uganda and for many years saw first-hand the tension between police officers and his colleagues.
“We were enemies,” he says. “We used to have conflicts within the community and there was chaos.”
Wakita took part in a peacebuilding training facilitated by MCC’s partner African Leadership and Reconciliation Ministries (ALARM) in 2014, which specifically works to build conflict resolution and mediation skills in boda-boda drivers and police officers.
Photo courtesy of ALARM
For the last four years, ALARM has offered these trainings, equipping hundreds of police officers and drivers alike with skills to de-escalate tense situations. ALARM is an African-led organization working in eight countries, including Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan and Kenya.
According to Edith Kamakune, the peacebuilding, justice and reconciliation coordinator for ALARM, Uganda has a history of a fractured relationship between the police and the general public. She says the police force can be brutal and militaristic because of political instability, tough-on-crime mandates and terrorism in the country.
“It created tension between police or anyone in security uniforms with the general public, especially boda-boda drivers,” she explains.
That’s why these peacebuilding trainings are valuable in Uganda, Kamakune says.
The groups meet separately for training in conflict resolution, servant leadership, mediation and restorative justice. From there, both parties come together to have a joint, frank discussion which is moderated by ALARM staff.
Photo courtesy of ALARM
Two peace clubs were established out of these trainings, which also helps equip people in the community with skills in nonviolent peacemaking.
According to Wakita, ALARM’s work has helped improve relationships in the capital, Kampala.
“It has reduced some of the chaos in my community. We have made some friends with police and the community. Now they can stop us on the road and ask for assistance,” he explains. “We’ve done trainings with them so we’ve had the chance to resolve conflicts with police.”
MCC’s co-representative in Uganda, Muigai Ndoka worked with ALARM to create the curriculum in 2014. MCC also provides about 80 per cent of ALARM Uganda’s funding. Because of the tension between civil society and the police, which is under the control of the government, these trainings nearly stopped before they got started.
According to Ndoka, advocacy in Uganda is closely linked with international human rights activism, which draws suspicion within the government. After six months of questioning staff and going through paperwork, the curriculum developed by ALARM and MCC is used across the country to train police.
“It is so great to see how well ALARM has been received by the police especially in light of the suspicion and hesitation when this project started,” Ndoka says.