GULU, Northern Uganda -- The government of Uganda’s decision to remove a key provision in the country’s Amnesty Act threatens to impede efforts to end the notorious rebel group, the Lord’s Resistance Army, or LRA. To address this concern and ensure peace in the region, the government of Uganda must clarify that former rebels will not be prosecuted, and grant amnesty to future defectors in exchange for participation in truth-seeking and reconciliation processes, according to a new Enough Project report.
The report—based on interviews with more than 60 people across northern Uganda as well as consultations with civil society groups in Congo, the Central African Republic, and South Sudan—proposes a three-part plan to achieve greater defections from the LRA while ensuring that justice and truth-seeking needs are met. The report is also accompanied by a new Enough Project video.
“While there is overwhelming support for amnesty among local communities in Northern Uganda, there is also a recognized need for reconciliation and transitional justice,” said Kasper Agger, the report’s author and Enough Project LRA field researcher. “The reality is that the vast majority of LRA fighters were forcefully abducted, so often there is no clear distinction between victim and perpetrator. To ensure long-term peace and stability, Kampala must formalize truth-seeking and traditional reconciliation practices for former combatants to receive amnesty in exchange for their participation.”
Since its enactment in 2000, the Ugandan Amnesty Act has served as a critical tool in encouraging defections from rebel groups. As of May 2012, a total of 26,288 rebels had received amnesty under the act—12,971 of which were former LRA combatants. With the recent lapse of the amnesty provision, former rebels now fear that they will face prosecution, and many believe that the provision’s removal will discourage defections and escapes from the LRA.
“The government of Uganda should listen to the concerns of its citizens and ensure that no former LRA combatants, aside from those wanted by the ICC, are prosecuted,” said Enough Executive Director John Bradshaw. “And as the government of Uganda develops its transitional justice policy, it is critical that the government adheres to a holistic approach that includes mechanisms to deal with crimes committed by all parties.”
The report found that local communities prioritize reparation and reconciliation over retributive justice, but there is a general sense that those most responsible for crimes must be held accountable, including members of the Ugandan army and government.
Enough is a project of the Center for American Progress to end genocide and crimes against humanity. Founded in 2007, the Enough Project focuses on crises in Sudan, eastern Congo, and areas of Africa affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army. Enough’s strategy papers and briefings provide sharp field analysis and targeted policy recommendations based on a “3P” crisis response strategy: promoting durable peace, providing civilian protection, and punishing perpetrators of atrocities. Enough works with concerned citizens, advocates, and policy makers to prevent, mitigate, and resolve these crises. For more information, please visit www.enoughproject.org.
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