Handbook of Ethnic Conflict

Part of the series International and Cultural Psychology pp 403-435


Ethnocultural Conflict in Uganda: Politics Based on Ethnic Divisions Inflame Tensions Across the Country

  • Grace M. KibanjaAffiliated withMakerere University
  • , Mayanja M. KajumbaAffiliated withSchool of Psychology, Makerere University
  • , Laura R. JohnsonAffiliated withUniversity of Mississippi Email author 

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Uganda Chapter Summary

Kibanja, Kajumba, and Johnson describe the ethnocultural conflicts currently occurring in the various regions of Uganda whose population includes over 40 different ethnic groups. Broad reasons presented for these conflicts include competition for resources and positions of power which are traced back to colonial history when tribal divisions became more pronounced. The authors delineate the various conflicts for political power that have occurred since independence, and associated factors and consequences.

Social Identity Theory is applied to explore causes of increasing differentiation between groups. Ethnicity is presented as the socially constructed overarching identity to which individuals ascribe; however, beyond this tribal identification, three major religions are recognized as creating further divisions. The authors emphasize several dichotomous stereotypes which are increasing a sense of hatred between groups.

Cultural and structural theories are utilized to explain the contributing factors in the conflicts, specifically poor political leadership, kingdoms mobilizing in protest along ethnic lines, religious influence in politics, and competition for minimal resources. Attempts at resolution are analyzed in each of the major regions, and notable positive acts along with reasons for their failure are provided.

Benefits of ethnic identification are mentioned particularly with regard to mental health and social support, although risks are also noted. Kibanja, Kajumba, and Johnson suggest that optimal intercultural relations can be achieved by developing ethnic identity while sharing a common goal. Suggestions for change in specific areas are offered, and the need for research in order to achieve optimal results is noted. Obtaining counsel from community leaders and working within African values are presented as important steps toward creating group cohesion with appreciation of differences.

Cheryl Jorgensen