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Northern Ugandans want justice for past atrocities, reveals UN study

Northern Ugandans want justice for past atrocities, reveals UN study

A new study by the United Nations human rights office shows that communities in northern Uganda blame both the Government and the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) for atrocities committed during a more than 20-year conflict, and want those responsible to be held to account.

The report, entitled “Making Peace Our Own: Victims Perceptions of Accountability, Reconciliation and Transitional Justice in Northern Uganda,” is based on private interviews with 1,725 victims of the conflict in 69 focus groups in Acholiland, Lango and Teso sub-regions.

“Most notably, this research study shows that the population broadly believes that both the LRA and the Government – and specifically their leaders – should be held accountable for the harms they have caused during the conflict,” the report by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) found.

Participants in the study “repeatedly expressed their need to discover the truth about the past, especially to shed light on the identity of the perpetrators and the nature of the acts that have been committed.”

“Sentiments of anger and vengefulness and a desire for prosecution abound in many communities,” the report added.

Also, while respondents expressed “an overwhelming desire for reconciliation,” opinions varied on the type of mechanism that would best deliver truth and compensation – both of which were “consistently identified as the principal transitional justice needs of the communities.”

Similarly, perceptions on the virtues of amnesty, domestic prosecution, views on the International Criminal Court (ICC) and local or national practices were “greatly mixed” among the victims. “The desire to prevent impunity was, however, consistently present amongst affected communities,” the report stated.

The study, which was designed to “amplify victims’ voices,” seeks to contribute to ongoing discussions on how best to redress northern Uganda’s past abuses – a central issue at peace talks between the Government and the LRA.

According to the report, current negotiations, being held in Juba in southern Sudan, represent the “best-ever opportunity for lasting peace.”

Thousands of people have been killed and an estimated 1.5 million others have become displaced in Uganda or in neighbouring countries since the LRA insurgency began in 1986. During that time, the rebel group has become 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.

In October 2005 the ICC issued its first-ever arrest warrants against Joseph Kony, the LRA leader, and four of the group’s commanders – Vincent Otti, Okot Odhiambo, Dominic Ongwen and Raska Lukwiya – on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.