Building a multi-purpose center to advance peace education, conflict transformation and reconciliation

For the past fifty years, wars, genocide and mass violence have continued to recycle in Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, killing and tormenting tens of millions of civilians, stalling development, destroying infrastructure, damaging culture, deterring the education of youth and preventing eradication of poverty.

This must change, and will change through Peace Education, Conflict Transformation and Reconciliation.

Peace Education builds cultures of peace to prevent new wars and builds peaceful schools and communities. In 2010, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Sports. UMECS launched Peace Education and Guidance & Counseling (PEGC) in seven secondary schools in Northern Uganda. The results have been groundbreaking. Read more 

Conflict Transformation goes beyond problem-solving, mediation and negotiation and does more than “resolve” or “manage” conflicts in the short term.  Conflict is a normal and healthy dynamic of human affairs. However, violent conflict results when people and groups are in a poor relationship, oftentimes through deep-seated hatred, fear, anger, mistrust and misunderstanding.  Conflict transformation is a series of community-led nonviolent processes and interactions that improve relationships and social structures over the long term while addressing a specific conflict at hand. With conflict transformation, peace and the quality of the relationships are intertwined.

Reconciliation is the missing ingredient to prevent new wars. When each war and genocide ends, it is mistaken for peace. It is not. Peace comes only when conflicting groups reconcile and build relationship. Reconciliation is how people heal and how relationships transform. When guided by culturally-based traditional justice procedures, reconciliation entails admission of acts committed, forgiveness and accountability. These processes are carried out in public, in front of the village or in community forums. Reconciliation heals, restores and builds relationship, trust, understanding, and acceptance so that groups co-exist and want to co-exist in peace, cooperation and harmony – preventing new wars.

Building UMECS Peace Education Center as a programmatic base to advance peace education, conflict transformation and reconciliation is a long-held vision.

In 2013, we acquired our project site on Airfield Approach Road in the Bardege division of Gulu municipality in Gulu district where UMECS Peace Education Center will be constructed.

The multi-purpose facility will include a conference center, space for trainings, workshops, seminars, events, research, and community-centered project activities. The Center will serve as a resource center for students, youth, women’s and community groups, civil society organisations, local government structures, local, countrywide, regional and international peace educators, scholars and practitioners.


Left, Peace Education Center architectural plans. Right, Undeveloped side of our project site in October 2013 during rainy season, cultivated with sweet potatoes. Click on pictures above to reveal larger architectural plans.

Gulu is an ideal location for the Peace Education Center. For two decades until 2006, Gulu was at the epicenter of the war in Northern Uganda. Gulu’s network of roads leads to all five sub-regions of Greater Northern Uganda, to Kampala and throughout Uganda.  The Juba Road leads from Gulu to nearby South Sudan where a war continues to escalate. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) border is a short distance from Gulu. Gulu is the largest commercial center and metropolitan area in Northern Uganda, has an airport, is home to Gulu University and to some of Uganda’s best health care facilities.

Our Analysis on Preventing New Wars

In today’s wars, civilian populations are the main casualties and women and children suffer the most. Once they start, wars rage out of control like forest fires. Wars cannot be stopped. They must be prevented.

To prevent wars, genocide and mass violence, cultures of lasting peace must be built in which people from the same and different groups co-exist and want to co-exist in harmony.

Through school and community-based peace education, children and youth become lifelong, experienced peacebuilding practitioners, help to prevent new wars, transform local conflicts and build peaceful schools and communities.

Reconciliation is the missing ingredient in preventing new wars. The failure of groups to reconcile following wars, genocide and mass violence is the leading cause that wars, genocide and mass violence continue to recycle.

War-affected communities, having felt the wounds and experienced the suffering of war, must be in the forefront of preventing new wars, paving the way for lasting peace and sustainable development.


Communities that have suffered the atrocities and indignities of war are resolved that war should never visit them again. They know that in order to attain lasting peace, new wars must be prevented.

Preventing new wars does not come about through wishful thinking. It takes long term commitment, hard work, relevant capacity, direction and action plans that build cultures of peace, create lifelong peacebuilding practitioners and advance reconciliation within and between groups.

In order to implement relevant programmatic action plans, a high capacity facility – a Center – is required as a base from which to cost-effectively, efficiently and sustainably carry forth the programmes, projects and activities designed to meet community and societal goals of preventing new wars and building peaceful schools and communities.

Goals and Objectives
  1. To build and sustain cultures of peace locally, countrywide and regionally to prevent new wars and build peaceful schools and communities
  2. To become a local, countrywide and regional Ugandan and African-led training center in peace education, guidance & counseling, conflict transformation and reconciliation
  3. To advance peace education in Uganda
  4. To foster reconciliation locally, countrywide and regionally
  5. To conduct Ugandan and African-led school and community-centered peacebuilding programmes, projects, activities and events
  6. To serve as a resource center for peace research, peace scholarship and writing on peace education, conflict transformation and reconciliation
  7. To prioritize the roles of women and youth in peacebuilding
  8. To contribute to organisational sustainability

Planned Activities
  1. Trainings of secondary school teachers as peace educators and guidance counselors to scale up peace education programmes in Uganda
  2. Conferences, workshops, seminars and trainings in peace education, guidance & counseling, conflict transformation and reconciliation
  3. Peace Events – including panel discussions on peace, peace film and video showings, peace drama, poetry, music, song and dance
  4. Providing a facility for local, countrywide, regional and international peace educators, peacebuilding practitioners, scholars and researchers
  5. Workshops, trainings and events for local, countrywide and regional peace education students and community youth groups
  6. Implementation of peacebuilding and reconciliation programmes, projects and activities
  7. Programme-related income generating activities

Expected Outcomes and Impacts
  1. Peace Education and Guidance & Counseling (PEGC) programmes scale up in secondary schools and communities throughout Uganda, building cultures of peace to prevent new wars, creating nonviolent school environments and building peaceful communities
  2. The Center becomes a substantial presence and nucleus for peace education in Uganda
  3. Many thousands of women, youth, students and community members from local, countrywide and regional communities develop shared visions of peace and are trained in conflict transformation and reconciliation and as trainers of trainers in well designed, measureable initiatives
  4. Local, countrywide and regional communities experience improved relationships, sustain peacebuilding activities and co-exist in cultures of lasting peace
  5. New wars, genocide and mass violence are prevented
  6. Local, countrywide and regional peace research leads to more effective peacebuilding  activities and improved results on the ground
  7. Our organisational sustainability is enhanced and the Center is sustained through programme-related income generating activities

Progress toward building the Peace Education Center

In 2013, we acquired our project site on Airfield Approach Road in the Bardege division of Gulu Municipality. In February and March 2013 during the dry season, after clearing and fencing the site, we installed municipal water, built a ventilated latrine and constructed two indigenous metal roofed buildings, one of which serves as a meeting venue and the other as a storage unit for site management. A pictorial essay follows below.






In 2014 and 2015, UMECS manufactured bricks for future Center construction and continued to manage the site. UMECS sponsored students in our Northern Uganda Education Programme assist with project site management. As the Center develops, UMECS student graduates, many of whom are trained peacebuilders, will be involved in the management of programmatic activities.

In April 2015, some of UMECS sponsored students, degree candidates at Gulu University, help to landscape the site as part of their role in site management. 


Moses Oyet, left and Denis Okello, carry seedlings to landscape the site with the student team.  Moses is a candidate for a Bachelor of Physical Science (Physics and Mathematics).  Denis is a Bachelor of Public Administration degree candidate.


Pope Paul Oketa, left, prepares the soil for planting. Pope Paul is a candidate for a Bachelor of Laws degree. In the background are baked bricks manufactured by UMECS for future Center construction. Rose Asire, right, plants a shrub onsite. Rose is a candidate for a Bachelor of Development Studies degree.


Left: Evaristo Oceng Onen, left, and Ocan Doctor plant flower seedlings. Evaristo is a Bachelor of Science in Biosystems Engineering degree candidate. Ocan is a candidate for a Bachelor of Science in Economics. Right: From left, Christopher Odong, Denis, Pope Paul and Ocan planting a shrub. Christopher is a degree candidate in the Bachelor of Business Administration programme.


UMECS students feel pride and ownership in our developing Peace Education Center.  They suffered during the  war, developed into community-minded change agents during their UMECS sponsored educations, are stakeholders for peace, are participating in the Center’s development and in the future, will participate in the management of programmatic activities.

UMECS Northern Uganda Education Programme (NUEP), sponsors vulnerable war-affected children and youth in secondary school through higher education graduation.  The programme, now in Year 11, combines long term educational sponsorship with mentorship, guidance, counseling and career guidance.  NUEP links education with community development, creating the needed teachers, doctors, nurses, engineers, economists, accountants, community developers and entrepreneurs necessary for community development in Northern and Northeast Uganda’s recovering post-conflict communities. Student graduates return to their communities as qualified professionals, contributing to community development and serving as needed young role models. Read more