Poverty, unemployment fuel violence in slums

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Findings of a study released in Kampala yesterday confirmed that poverty and unemployment are the drivers of violent extremism among slum dwellers.

Titled, “Strengthening social cohesion and stability in slum populations”, the report is off an European Union (EU)-funded study conducted by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in February this year under the Strengthening Social Cohesion and Stability project in slums.

It covered the city slums of Bwaise, Kabalagala, Katwe and Kisenyi. Among the causes of violence in slums, poverty was ranked highest with 52 per cent, followed by domestic violence at 47 per cent.

Others are; mob action (46 per cent), unemployment (38 per cent), rape or sexual harassment (33 per cent), family disputes (27 per cent), political extremism (23 per cent), human sacrifice (17 per cent), suicide (10 per cent) and religious extremism (10 per cent).

The head of counter terrorism intelligence and technical services in the police, Mr David Wasswa, said slums pose a security threat to the country because terrorists could exploit those inhabiting these places with little money.

“As police, we are keen to see that we monitor these areas to curb crime. Government must empower these slum dwellers with income generating projects but not wait for them to become criminals and then arrest them,” he said.

Respondents also felt that drug abuse, tribalism, injustice, land wrangles, devil worship, and unfavourable government policies were all important sources of grievances in slum areas where alcoholism, prostitution and drug abuse are rampant.

The IOM project manager, Sahra Farah, noted that the objective of the study was to identify the sources of grievances among targeted slum communities; determine the most at-risk populations for violent extremism, and to establish levels of unemployment and the capacity of security agencies.

“Slums in Uganda are faced with many problems which have, at times, resulted into crime threats in the city. We believe this study will help the government of Uganda and other organisations to come on board and address the challenges affecting the slum dwellers,” Ms Farah said.

She said crime brews in slum surroundings because majority of the slum dwellers are poor and resort to violence in answer to their frustrations.

It was found that 32 per cent of the slum population were self-employed with only 12 per cent being employed. Food vending (22 per cent) and boda-boda riding (27 per cent) are the common businesses.

Of those in some form of employment, the study adds, more than 53.2 per cent earned less than Shs100, 000 a month.

The EU head of section, governance and human rights, Thomas Tiedemann noted that although Uganda has approximately 78 per cent of its citizens under the age of 30, the government hasn’t planned for them – hence their ending up in slums.

“Due to the increased poor conditions of people living in slums, the EU decided to allocate Shs16.4 billion from the Trust Fund to improve the situation of the youth in these slums,” he said.

Kampala Capital City Authority spokesman Peter Kaujju told Daily Monitor yesterday that a new physical plan to improve city slums is in the works.

“We are rolling out a plan to have all these slums redeveloped so that people living there get better housing services. And for the crime, we have always partnered with security agencies to mitigate it, but it needs consistency,” he said.
Housing

The overall housing situation in the country is characterised by inadequate housing in terms of quality and quantity both in rural and urban areas with a housing deficit of about 1.6 million housing units, out of which 210,000 units are needed in the urban areas.

An estimated 900,000 housing units are sub-standard and need replacement or upgrading.

According to the national housing policy which was unveiled in May last year, government seeks to promote progressive realisation of adequate housing for all and is premised on the principle of partnership.

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