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Not a peaceful world

By Peter Nyanzi

Optimism as Uganda is ranked second most peaceful country in Great Lakes Region

If you want to live in peace in the Great Lakes region, go to Tanzania. If not, Uganda is the second option, that is according to the Global Peace Index 2013, which measures the relative position of the peacefulness of nations. On a ranking of 162 nations, Uganda sits comfortably in the 106 position in the world only second to Tanzania in the region, which is 55 on the global rankings.

Rwanda (135), Kenya (136), and Burundi (144) follow in that order. The report shows that in the last five years, all the regions of the world have recorded declines in peace since 2008. But Uganda has defied the trend by making the biggest improvement in peacefulness in comparison to the regional average.


Compared to 2008, Uganda has jumped from 114 to 106 in 2013, though it declined slightly (eight places) from 98 in 2012 to 106 in 2013. On the other hand, Rwanda and Kenya are far less peaceful today than they were in 2008.

In attempting to gauge peacefulness, the GPI investigates the extent to which countries are involved in ongoing domestic and international conflicts. It also seeks to evaluate the level of harmony or discord within a nation; ten indicators broadly assess what might be described as safety and security in society.

The assumption is that low crime rates, minimal incidences of terrorist acts and violent demonstrations, harmonious relations with neighboring countries, a stable political environment and a small proportion of the population being internally displaced or in refugee status, can be equated with peacefulness. However, Uganda’s relative peacefulness has not come on the cheap.

With $5 billion or $145 per capita being spent on the containment of violence, Uganda is the region’s biggest spender on containing violence with about 9% of its GDP being spent on that item alone. Kenya spends 8% of GDP on the item while Rwanda (5% of GDP) spends the least amount on violence containment followed by Tanzania (6%).

Globally, the report shows that the economic impact of containing violence is estimated to have shot up to $9.46 trillion in 2012 or 11% of Gross World Product, indicating a clearly less peaceful world.

The report also includes the Positive Peace Index (PPI), which measures the strength of the attitudes, institutions, and structures of nations to determine their capacity to create and sustain a peaceful environment. The PPI is based on eight pillars of peace framework. They include:

  • A well-functioning government
  • A sound business environment
  • An equitable distribution of resources
  • Acceptance of the rights of others
  • Good relations with neighbors
  • The free flow of information
  • High levels of human capital
  • Low levels of corruption

A key component of good governance is citizens feeling their governments are accountable, not corrupt, and are not mismanaging public goods. On this index, Uganda is ranked lower than her regional counterparts (Tanzania, Rwanda and Kenya).

In the region, Uganda performed worst on low levels of corruption but recorded the best scores on the free flow of information and good relations with neighbors. Rwanda scored lowest on the free flow of information.  Free flow of information captures how easily citizens can gain access to information, whether the media is free and independent, as well as the extent to which citizens are informed and engaged in the political process.

In this sense free flow of information is an attempt to account for the degree of access to information as well as the independence of that information from vested political and economic interests.  Globally, the three indicators that recorded the greatest deterioration over the last six years are; number of homicides, perceptions of criminality and likelihood of violent demonstrations.

Europe is comfortably the most peaceful region in the world, as few countries are involved in external conflict and most societies are broadly harmonious.   One of the interesting trends is that countries with small and medium populations – 1 million – 25 million people – consistently score the highest average level of peace.

Levels of violence tend to be higher in authoritarian regimes and in countries with larger populations, while very large countries with populations over 100 million consistently record the lowest levels of peace.  That means Uganda could reap peace dividends in future if it contains its exploding population.

Also, countries with longstanding leaders tend to be associated with less peace, which is explained by the marginalisation of opposition parties; which deprived of the opportunity to change leadership via the ballot box, mobilize their supporters into more violent activities.

But interestingly, the report notes that the perception of Sub-Saharan Africa as a locus of economic underperformance and political instability is increasingly getting out-of-date, as underscored by the GPI 2013 results. The region as a whole ranked above the Middle East and North Africa, South Asia, and Russia and Eurasia in terms of peacefulness.

In part, this could reflect rising economic prosperity—Sub-Saharan economic growth has outstripped that of every other region in the world over the past two years—and, ironically, the region’s traditional marginalisation from the global economy has helped insulate it from the impact of the global financial crisis.

But the report warns African leaders not to rest on their laurels as public anger over the high cost of living and the inadequacy of public services, notwithstanding strong overall economic growth, could lead to waves of violent protests and strikes, and the potential for such unrest remains high.

Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Lesotho and Tanzania are listed as the continent’s five most peaceful countries, while Iceland, Denmark, New Zealand, Austria and Switzerland are the world’s top five most peaceful countries.   The GPI is a product of the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) and is developed in consultation with an international panel of peace experts from peace institutes and think tanks with data collected and collated by the Economist Intelligence Unit.

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