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Who are the Lonetia? Findings from southern Karamoja, Uganda*

  • Elizabeth Stites (a1) and Anastasia Marshak (a2)

The increase in crime and violence committed by young men known as lonetia in southern Karamoja, Uganda, has occurred in parallel to overall security improvements since the start of the 2006 disarmament campaign. This article examines the lonetia phenomenon from the perspective of the young men themselves. Panel data from four sets of interviews conducted in 2013 with approximately 400 young men provide details on the motivations of young men and the challenges they experience in the face of changing livelihood opportunities. We find that the lonetia category is highly fluid and that a set of behaviours and attributes correspond with the frequency of engagement in lonetia activity. Examination of seasonality highlights the contribution of hunger to lonetia frequency. We examine the perceptions of power and respect of young men in their communities as well as their propensity towards violence. The article concludes with thoughts on influencing lonetia involvement.

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The authors thank Emily Nohner for managing the fieldwork, Simon Richards and Darlington Akabwai for their contributions, the field team and enumerators, and Concern Worldwide and the World Bank for their support. Any errors or omissions are the responsibility of the authors, and the views expressed here are solely our own.

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Given the sensitive nature of the information provided by respondents, we do not list the village or parish where interviews took place.
Women focus group, Lotome Sub-county, Napak District, 8.4.2013.
Male elders focus group, Lorengedwat Sub-county, Nakapiripirit District, 11.4.2013.
Male youth interview, Lorengedwat Sub-county, Nakapiripirit District, 13.4.2013.
Male elders focus group, Lotome Sub-county, Napak District, 2.9.2013.
Male youth interview, Lorengedwat Sub-county, Nakapiripirit District, 9.9.2013.
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