The Role of Civil Society in Advocating for Transitional Justice in Uganda

Jackee Budesta Batanda
Edited by Professor Andre du Toit
Pages: 16
Dimensions: 297 x 210 mm
Publisher: IJR
Date of publication: 2009
ISBN: 978-1-920219-13-0



Over the last decade the significance of civil society in Uganda has grown in the areas of human rights, peace building and democracy, which are all relevant to the field of transitional justice. The important role of civil society relates to its potential to influence leaders, form public opinion and to represent the views of the populace outside the political arena. Societies that have experienced political change from authoritarian rule have usually had a strong civil society based movement. South Africa is the most prominent case of such a democratic transition on the African continent. Mary Burton, one of the commissioners of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, said that during the 1980s South Africa had built a strong civil society which made a democratic transition possible and this was a great resource to the new Government of National Unity in 1994.2 South Africa's civil society had considerable experience of organising at the local level, where grassroots organisations acted as agents of change.

While the context in which civil society operated in South Africa is different from Uganda, there are lessons Uganda can learn from the South African experience. It should be noted that although civil society has the potential to make significant contributions to peace building and transitional justice, the existence of a strong and vibrant civil society cannot be taken for granted and will be explored later in this essay.

This paper examines the role of civil society in addressing issues of transitional justice in a society like Uganda where there has been no democratic transition. When taking into account the theoretical conceptualisation of civil society, one has to consider the contemporary context in which civil society in Uganda operates. Ugandan civil society operates in a stifled environment, where the government is hostile to publications considered detrimental to national security. More specifically the paper provides some observations on the roles of the media, religious institutions, etc., which are illustrated with reference to the Beyond Juba Project.



Understanding civil society

Contextual background

The role of civil society