Creating a new generation of peacemakers in Uganda
Great Lakes Center cofounder Robert Opira leads children in Gulu, Uganda, on a walk to promote peace. Photo courtesy of Robert Opira
For more than 20 years, northern Uganda lived in the grip of a civil war that killed over 300,000 people, displaced 1.8 million more, and forced 36,000 child soldiers as young as seven years old to fight in the resistance movement.
Although a truce brought an end to the violence in 2006, much work remains to secure a lasting peace.
In November, The Rotary Foundation awarded a US$16,096 global grant to the Rotary clubs of Rubaga, Uganda, and Lambert Airport, Missouri, USA, to provide training in peace-building to 200 teachers and 1,300 students at 10 high schools in the region. The sponsor clubs will work with the Great Lakes Center for Conflict Resolution in Gulu to carry out the project. The effort also will create “peace clubs” at the schools, which will use music, drama, and other means to provide ongoing education about conflict prevention and resolution to the surrounding communities.
The Great Lakes Center is the brainchild of two former Rotary Peace Fellows, Robert Opira (2005-07) and Godfrey Mukalazi (2004-06), who came up with the idea while studying at the University of Queensland in Australia. The nongovernmental organization is working to address conflict and security challenges in the five-country Great Lakes region, where more than five million people have died since the mid-1990s in conflicts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda alone.
After the grant project is completed, the center will integrate the training curriculum and peace clubs into its activities and continue to work with the 10 schools. The knowledge and skills acquired by the teachers and students will enable them to become lifelong agents for peace in their communities and the nation.
The project, which is aligned with the peace and conflict prevention/resolution area of focus under the Future Vision Plan, is supported by districts 1911 (Hungary), 5890 (Texas, USA), 6060 (Missouri, USA), 6200 (Louisiana, USA), and 9200 (Eritrea; Ethiopia; Kenya; Tanzania; Uganda). The districts together contributed $14,597 from their District Designated Fund, and the Rubaga club provided $3,000.
Rubaga club members helped plan the project’s training curriculum and will participate in the training and promote the effort in the local media. They will also assess the project’s impact to help ensure its sustainability.
The Lambert Airport club is monitoring the effort’s progress and promoting it in the media.
The Great Lakes Center “is grateful that it is working as a partner with The Rotary Foundation,” says Opira, a member of the Rotary Club of Gulu. “There are a lot of conflict and security challenges in the region. Through the family of Rotary, we can better serve our community.”