Moving Forward: Traditional Justice and Victim Participation in Northern Uganda

Lino Owor Ogora. Edited by Professor Andre du Toit
Pages: 16
Dimensions: 297 x 210 mm
Publisher: IJR
Date of publication: 2009
ISBN: 978-1-920219-15-0



Northern Uganda has been the scene of civil war since 1986, when the National Resistance Army (NRA) led by President Yoweri Museveni seized power in a military coup. Various rebel groups, composed mainly of ex-soldiers from northern Uganda, sprung up to resist the NRA. While most of these groups did not last long, the rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) proved to be resilient and have resisted the government to date. During the conflict numerous atrocities have been committed on a scale that surpassed previous conflicts in the history of northern Uganda. Thousands of children were abducted to serve within the ranks of the LRA as child soldiers, porters and 'wives' for rebel commanders. In addition, over 1.8 million people were displaced and had to live in the squalid conditions of internally displaced persons' (IDP) camps.

In a bid to find a peaceful solution to the conflict, the Juba peace talks commenced in June 2006, under the auspices of the government of Southern Sudan.1 From the outset, the Juba peace talks were complicated by the 'peace versus justice' dilemma. In October 2005 the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued arrest warrants for the five top commanders of the LRA. In the context of the Juba peace talks, peace-minded actors called for the suspension of these warrants to allow the negotiations with the LRA to progress. Probably in a bid to create a win-win situation, the June 2007 agreement on accountability and reconciliation stipulated the use of both formal and non-formal mechanisms.2 At the centre of the formal mechanisms referred to in the agreement is the Special Division of the High Court (SDHC),3 set up with the intention of prosecuting individuals alleged to have committed serious crimes during the conflict. The non-formal mechanisms refer to traditional justice mechanisms in northern Uganda, that is, traditional and customary practices which have for ages been used by local tribes for conflict resolution and the maintenance of social order. They include Mato Oput of the Acholi, Kayo Cuk of the Langi, Ailuc of the Iteso, Ajupe of the Kakwa, Ajufe of the Lugbara, Aja of the Alur, and the Tolu Koka of the Madi among others. Across the African continent, similar traditional justice mechanisms have been revived such as Inkundla in South Africa, Gacaca in Rwanda, Magambo in Mozambique, and Bashingantahe in Burundi. In their diversity these traditional justice mechanisms have all been associated with the concept of Ubuntu, 4 since most of them focus on the restoration of broken relations.



Transitional justice and prosecutions


Community truth telling and reconciliation

Community reparations

Traditional justice: Clinging to the past?