Friday, 31 August 2007

Peace and reconciliation in Uganda

One of the most interesting items up for discussion in the peace talks currently taking place in Jura between the Lord’s Resistance Army and the Ugandan Government, is the extent to which traditional forms of justice and reconciliation followed by the Acholi people could be incorporated within Ugandan’s official justice system.

This came up at a conference I attended yesterday, where a deputy chairman of a district in Northern Uganda (i.e. an elected politician) criticized NGOs – particularly ”American women” - for interfering in the way the local people handled domestic violence, ‘forcing’ women to report crimes whereas the traditional way of doing things is for the victim to take such problems to her in-laws, and ask them to speak to her errant husband. He was adamant that this approach worked in the interests of all concerned, although it’s fairly easy to spot the flaws in such a system, particularly given the overwhelmingly patriarchal attitudes in Ugandan society. I’ve since been told that this is not one of the areas up for discussion at Jura. It will be fascinating to see what issues do emerge, what new laws are created, and how they handle in effect having two forms of justice operating in one country. When I was in Uganda last year I was told about traditional reconciliation ceremonies which take place when former LRA rebels – and child soldiers - return to their villages. Here’s the BBC’s account of it, (which says there’s already a legal framework in place for incorporating traditional justice – the Jura talks presumably must be building on this).

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