This paper explores the unique place of Gulu town within the 21-year civil war in northern Uganda. It explores the conditions faced by the large internally displaced population of Gulu, and explains why it has remained relatively stable despite the significant level of displacement. The paper explores the social changes that have occurred among the displaced population in Gulu's tenuous urban environment, focusing on the breakdown of male, lineage-based authority and on the impact of town life on women and ex-rebels. Finally, the paper argues that Gulu town, despite its present stability, may become a destabilising force in the region after the war ends, when internal conflict within post-war Acholi society could lead to a new phase of displacement; and Gulu town could become a haven for large numbers of the dispossessed, excluded and victimised. The paper concludes by asking how to manage this possible scenario through specific interventions into Gulu's urban economy and society, and how Gulu might become a catalyst of peace and stability, and not of further violence and instability, in the post-war period.
Working Paper No. 36 (series 2), London, UK; Crisis States Research Centre, 26 pp.