Human Rights Groups, African Civic Leaders Urge Uganda to Reinstate LRA Amnesty, Promote Accountability
WASHINGTON and GULU – On June 25, a coalition of 22 civil society organizations and leaders in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, and the United States issued a statement urging the Government of Uganda to reinstate amnesty and promote accountability for Lord’s Resistance Army, or LRA, rebels. Since the enactment of the Act in 2000, more than 26,000 former Ugandan rebels have received amnesty, of which approximately 13,000 are former LRA rebels.
On May 23, the Ugandan Minister of Internal Affairs announced the lapse of a key provision of the country’s Amnesty Act. Part II of the Act, which provided for the granting of amnesty to former rebels, was allowed to expire while the rest of the Act was renewed for 12 months.
"There is a critical window now to finally end the 25 year-long LRA war, and a key step on the path to peace is to encourage LRA combatants to lay down their arms," said John Bradshaw, Enough Project Executive Director. "The Obama administration should urge the Ugandan government to refrain from prosecuting any LRA fighters not indicted by the International Criminal Court and consider granting them amnesty provided they go through a truth-telling transitional justice process."
More than 30,000 LRA combatants have been abducted as children and forced against their will to fight and commit horrific atrocities.
"We want the Amnesty Act in place until a comprehensive law is in place for the transitional justice system to work," said Kenneth Oketta, Prime Minister for Ker Kwaro Acholi, a northern Ugandan cultural organization. "Abductees are still in captivity."
Although the LRA is no longer in Uganda, the group has continued to perpetrate grave human rights violations against civilians and pose a threat to stability in the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic, or CAR.
"We have messages being aired in DRC, CAR and South Sudan where we are asking the rebels to take advantage of the Amnesty Act and come home," said Archbishop John Baptist Odama of the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative. "Removing amnesty will completely undermine these efforts."
The communique also calls for the adoption of additional procedures to promote greater accountability and reconciliation. The Ugandan government is obligated to promote reconciliation within the nation under the Ugandan constitution, Part III of the Amnesty Act, and the peace agreement relating to accountability and reconciliation signed by the government and the LRA.
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Negotiations between the governments of Sudan and South Sudan adjourned today after the Sudanese government requested time to return to Khartoum for high-level political consultations with President Omar al-Bashir and other key leadership. South Sudanese representatives also left Addis Ababa to hold similar consultations in Juba. The expectation is that the two sides will return to Addis Ababa on July 5 for three days of meetings, during which they will present readouts from their respective consultations. Read More »
ABYEI TOWN, Abyei -- The withdrawal of Sudan Armed Forces, or SAF, from Abyei town in early June has paved the way for potential large-scale returns of the estimated 110,000 mostly Ngok Dinka population who were displaced from the disputed, oil-producing region of Abyei in the May 2011 Sudan government incursion.
Humanitarian aid workers report that approximately 1,250 people have returned to Abyei town, and project that some 30,000 Ngok Dinka will return over the next few months. This anticipated influx of civilians, according to a new Enough Project report, underscores the urgency for leaders in Sudan and South Sudan to reach a final solution on the status of Abyei and for humanitarian assistance to be in place.
“The same political tensions that have already resulted in two large-scale attacks on the civilian population in Abyei continue to exist, and will continue to threaten the safety and security of the now returning civilians until a decision on Abyei's final status is reached," said Amanda Hsiao, the report’s author and Enough Project field researcher. The report, "Field Dispatch: Abyei in Flux," is based on field research conducted in Abyei earlier this month, and includes an accompanying photo slideshow.
The Ethiopian U.N. peacekeeping force that was deployed to defuse the tensions surrounding the May crisis has since stabilized the Abyei area, despite the traditionally volatile migration season and larger Sudan-South Sudan tensions along the border, according to the report. Reconciliation of the deeply strained relations between the Misseriya and Ngok Dinka communities at the grassroots will also be critical for sustaining peace in Abyei going forward.
International pressure in the form of the U.N. Security Council Resolution 2046 and the African Union roadmap has ignited some momentum in negotiations between Sudan and South Sudan, but the two countries remain at an impasse over a number of key issues, including over Abyei. An estimated 100 Sudanese oil police remain within the Abyei area.
"The long overdue withdrawal of Sudan government forces from Abyei town will permit civilians finally to return home and the reconstruction of the devastated area to begin," Hsiao said. "Until a decision is reached between Juba and Khartoum, the international community should help establish the necessary political, security, and humanitarian arrangements to ensure stability is maintained and humanitarian needs of the population are met in the interim."
During the May 2011 incursion, Sudan government forces engaged in indiscriminate bombardment and widespread razing and looting of civilian properties, documented by the Enough Project and the Satellite Sentinel Project.
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.
“I ran because I saw many militias and SAF,” said Malak Miyen, an elderly Ngok Dinka man. “I survived because of God.” Malak was in Abyei town when Sudan government forces and allied militias violently took over the Abyei territory in May 2011, in response to alleged South Sudan army provocation. For over a year, he has been displaced in a town 37 kilometers south of Abyei town called Agok. A new Enough Project field dispatch, “Abyei In Flux,” examines the current security and political dynamics, and communities’ sentiments on the ground, as the contested area’s population returns home. Read More »
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