The COVID-19 pandemic has had a tremendous impact on every category of people living in Uganda, including domestic violence among issues, however, more and severe cases of violence have been evidenced in the urban slums by the urban poor population as a study indicates.
This was revealed during the dissemination and validation meeting held at Makerere University on findings of a study dubbed ‘Building Peaceful Urban Communities in Kampala City Amidst COVID-19 and Beyond’.
The study conducted in four urban slums of Kampala which include Katanga, Kikoni, Kivulu and Kisenyi indicates that there were numerous cases of conflicts and domestic violence.
Funded by the Government of Uganda through the Research and Innovations Fund, one of the key elements was assessing how disharmony and social instability have affected the slum residents amidst the pandemic.
Dr Veneranda Mbabazi, team member and senior lecturer at the Department of Religion and Peace Studies said that violence was evidenced among the 4 slums as there were conflicts between tenants and landlords. She explained the findings thus:
“Many businesses were closed; which led to unemployment and then low income. Many dwellers weren’t able to pay their landlords and this created conflicts,” she said.
She added that covid-19 led to violence against children, food shortage and scarcity due to low production; Gender Based Violence, prostitution, early marriages, emotional violence, unwanted pregnancies among others.
“Women, the elderly and children were the most vulnerable,” she pointed out.
Dr Mbabazi stressed that children in these slums were deprived of a chance to study unlike their counterparts in well-off families and social set-ups.
“Other children were studying using the TVs and internet. However, those in slum areas don’t have such facilities. Also, there was increased child labour. During this covid-19 time, children are seen as means of survival and supplement on the incomes of their parents,” she said.
She further noted that people with terminal illnesses such as diabetes, cancer were abandoned and some lost their lives.
Interventions and recommendations
Dr. Samson Barigye, investigator on the project, noted that conducting regular trainings on conflict management with leaders is very important to address the capacity gaps among the leaders.
“We realise that leaders are playing a big role in addressing conflicts and violence as they are dealing with the consequences of COVID-19. Conflict is normal and can happen but what we are talking about is violence of all forms,” Dr. Barigye said.
“We engaged leaders and worked with them in the 4 slums to analyse the complaints, worked with them in trainings. We have trained 60 leaders in conflict analysis, conflict resolution, dialogue and advocacy which is being done up to now,” he added.
Yusuf Kizito, a resident of the Katanga slum verified that the findings of the study are true as per his observation and the incidents witnessed as regards violence and conflict.
“The findings that the committee has come up with are those that we as a community are seeing down here,” said Kizito.
LDUs role in addressing conflicts
Captain Francis Agaba, who represented the Local Defence Units at the dissemination, said that some people are misguided that LDUs promote violence and conflicts; instead of promoting peace.
He cited an incident where a one Kanywanyi had had a serious accident where he lost most of his teeth and even confessed it at the hospital. However, he later said that he was beaten by the LDUs, an accusation Agaba regarded as “baseless and untrue.”
“In Kampala, we have not received any complaints on shootings, so I believe the LDUs are doing a good job in resolving some of these issues,” he added.