Practical Reconciliation in northern Uganda

I'm in Gulu. I spent yesterday with community members on the practical aspects of reconciliation. This morning, I went for an amazing 6AM sunrise run with incredibly fresh air the likes of which are never found in Kampala. When I got back, I remembered that a colleague of mine at the International Center for Transitional Justice asked me to update her on the post-conflict reconciliation process in northern Uganda. Here is what I sent her...

In Juba, the peace talks between the Government and the LRA seem to be progressing. However, this is only a technical and military process that will dictate an end of hostilities. The hard, practical work of rebuilding, reconciliation and transitional justice is a process that must include the constituency of the greater northern Uganda. It seems to me that few people know what a Ugandan reconciliation process should look like. It is a complicated process, but I'll comment on a few of the major areas here:

Justice- The rhetoric in Gulu is that everyone is ready to forgive, forget and begin a new life. This certainly expresses the desire for peace. However, in private, many people speak of a desire for retribution and a thirst for justice. The Mato Oput process (traditional reconciliation) does not have a mechanism for dealing with the reality that most people are both victims and perpetrators. However, one must consider the mitigation of guilt caused by the fact that the rank and file LRA were nearly all abducted children. A hybrid between a truth process, together with amnesty and the traditional reconciliation, may be the best approach.

Regional and National Reconciliation- There is certainly consensus that there must be reconciliation in the greater northern Uganda. Gulu, Lango, Teso and Karamoja, have all be devastated by the conflict, but have not had communication for over 20 years. There is also debate over national reconciliation, correcting the north/south divide that has existed in the country long before the most recent conflict in northern Uganda. The best tool for this process seems to be an increase in communication, both through traditional means like radio, as well as through new communications centers that could be linked via satellite.

Psycho Social Programs- The conflict has been devastating on so many levels and it is not just abducted children and their victims that are in need of support. The first effort on the community level is to get people out of the camps and back to their communities. This will necessitate a mediation process to handle disputes over land and property. However, there are definitely subgroups that need special counseling. Considering there are only 13 psychiatrists in Uganda, this is certainly a challenge.

Memorials- The most interesting idea I heard about remembrance is the idea of simply cataloging what happened in the local community. The simple fact that peoples stories are stored some where has some restorative aspect.

This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but it hopefully gives you an idea of the main practical issues of reconciliation, and what the opinions are on the ground.

Labels: , ,


  • I am very pleased to know that Northern Uganda will have peace. I do hope the peace process goes on and holds. Few people on earth have suffered as the people there.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:50 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home