From Notorious Fighter to Peace Ambassador
A few years ago, Achia Peter was a ring-leader in a group referred to as the notorious youth fighters/"peace spoilers". He was known for masterminding cattle raids (theft) and other acts of gun violence in Kaabong district (Karamoja region) in Uganda and neighboring cross-border communities in Toposa (South Sudan) and Turkana (Kenya) . At 19, he became the owner of a dozen guns and earned a reputation as a skilled sharpshooter who always avenged his enemies – earning local names like Lokowumoi (the one who targets the head), and Loperitimoi (the one who finds his enemies while they sleep). Today Achia is a peacebuilder and an inspiration for youth.
He is the leader of the "Kaabong Peace Ambassadors" group in Kaabong district. The group consists of youth fighters from Kaabong who had escaped to Toposa, South Sudan during the intensive military disarmament in Uganda around 2007. While in Toposa, these fighters used to collaborate with Toposa fighters of South Sudan and raided neighboring Turkana communities in Kenya and Dodoth kraals in Kaabong district - causing a lot of atrocities in the region. After their return to Kaabong in 2015, CECORE under the PEACE III cross-border project engaged them and later trained 30 of them in peacebuilding and conflict transformation skills. Following the trainings, Achia and the group members transformed into agents of peace in their communities. They formed a group called "Kaabong Peace Ambassadors". CECORE also conducted a number of trauma healing sessions for the group. Achia and the group members are now leading in conducting community peace sensitizations and luring their peers to abandon acts of violence in the community.
CECORE trained the group in entrepreneurship skills and Village Saving and Loan Association (VSLA) and linked the group to other support opportunities in the area. They have since been engaged in farming and loan saving scheme as a source of income.
"After receiving the skills I got in peace and business from CECORE, I cannot even dream of going to raid again. My dream is to ensure that all youth abandon raiding and embrace peace" – Achia says. "To us, Achia is a great inspiration. He has taught us to abandon violence and reconcile with our brothers in Dodoth, Turkana and South Sudan to realize peace" Says one of the group members."
By Patrick Bwire – GPPAC Regional Liaison Officer – Eastern and Central Africa Center for Conflict Resolution (CECORE).