God, Guns, Cattle, and Reconciliation

In northwest Uganda, vicious cattle wars have been waged between tribes for decades. Tens of thousands of people have died from these wars and related causes since the late 1970s. For 10 years, Valery Shean worked as a veterinarian with one of the most violent and feared groups, the Karamojong. In 2006, she had an idea that could make peace possible, despite the poor track-record of the Ugandan government and NGOs to stop the wars. Her plan included God. Valery organized some “gray-hairs” from the US to come to Uganda and speak to the elders of two warring clans about God’s forgiveness and reconciliation. Then she presented an idea to the elders to create a “Peace Village” right in the middle of the cattle-raiding corridor, and to ask for volunteers from both tribes to live together in this village.

Two villages were created: Nabwal, now with 11,000 people, and Nakayot, a village of 3000. Thousands from the Pian and Bokora clans, once hated enemies, have now reconciled and a few have even intermarried. The peace villages have worked to stop most of the killing and stealing, and the people work together now on solving problems through traditional councils.