Uganda has offered an amnesty to the leadership of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a rebel group notorious for using child soldiers and committing other human rights abuses, because it believes this is the best way to end the 20-year conflict peacefully, the country’s Foreign Affairs Minister informed the General Assembly today.
Sam Kutesa told world leaders gathered for the annual general debate at UN Headquarters in New York that Uganda made “a painful decision to offer amnesty” after carefully studying the situation.
“Painful in the sense that we do not condone impunity,” Mr. Kutesa said. “We are, however, convinced that the alternative traditional justice system that we intend to apply is an equitable solution.”
Last month the LRA and Uganda signed a cessation of hostilities to end the conflict in the country’s north and east, but a comprehensive peace deal has not yet been struck and some LRA figures face International Criminal Court (ICC) indictments.
Those indicted on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity are LRA leader Joseph Kony and commanders Vincent Otti, Okot Odhiambo, Dominic Ongwen and Raska Lukwiya.
During its long conflict with the Ugandan Government, the LRA became notorious for abducting children and then using them as soldiers or porters, while subjecting some to torture and allocating many girls to senior officers in a form of institutional rape.
But Mr. Kutesa asked the international community to “assist the process we have embarked on. We are determined to resolve the conflict peacefully. Peace is what our people want and it is peace that we are determined to give them.”