Beyond Juba and transitional justice

On October 30, I attended two events of the Peace Film Festival put on by the Transitional Justice Project at the Faculty of Law at Makerere University and other collaborators. The program flyer can be found at this link: http://www.beyondjuba.org/other_documents/filmfestival.pdf.

You may be thinking, “what is transitional justice?” So was I. Here is a working definition from International Center for Transitional Justice (http://www.ictj.org/en/tj/):

“Transitional justice is a response to systematic or widespread violations of human rights. It seeks recognition for the victims and to promote possibilities for peace, reconciliation and democracy. Transitional justice is not a special form of justice but justice adapted to societies transforming themselves after a period of pervasive human rights abuse. In some cases, these transformations happen suddenly; in others, they may take place over many decades.”

Here is a bit about the project (http://www.beyondjuba.org/project_info.php):

“The project builds on the participating organisations’ work on peace and conflict related issues in Uganda, and in particular reflects the outcome of a three day stakeholders dialogue under the same title which was hosted in Kampala by the three collaborating partners in December 2006.

Uganda’s post colonial history has been characterised by division and conflict.  One of the most violent and protracted of the conflicts is the 21 year war in northern Uganda waged by the Lord’s Resistance Army/Movement (LRA/M).  The current peace talks between the Government of Uganda (GoU) and the LRA/M, which are mediated by the Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS), are welcomed as a solution to attain sustainable peace in Uganda.  However, there are reservations about how the peace consultations are proceeding, and some stakeholders feel that the discussions around accountability and reconciliation may not result in process that is sufficiently comprehensive in ensuring sustainable peace in northern Uganda or in the country as a whole. For reconciliation to be effective, the northern Uganda conflict must be placed within a wider national context.

In the past there have been attempts to establish transitional justice mechanisms for Uganda. They have not related to broader political dynamics like decentralisation or gender, however. Another challenge is that current reconciliation initiatives like the Peace Recovery and Development Plan (PRDP) view reconciliation in a localised fashion and therefore only allocate a small part of their budget to it. If the Juba Peace Talks offer hope for sustained peace and create opportunities for meaningful national reconciliation in Uganda, then considerable efforts to create a climate conducive to change should be made.

One such effort is the Beyond Juba Project, a three year project funded by SIDA and NORAD. The project constitutes of three pillars: (1) In-depth consultation and training with key stakeholders including different branches of government, (2) research on critical legal, and psychosocial issues for inclusion in the national reconciliation process and (3) a multi-layered public information campaign that reaches all sectors of society.

I caught the end of a panel, but I was able to view the movie “Uganda Rising” which finished the day’s events on 30 October 2008. Despite all the stories I have heard here about the LRA, nothing to date has given me more historical context, narrative from victims, and political explanations than this video. Although I knew of horrific LRA crimes and briefly encountered a post-internally-displaced persons camp in Gulu (see Gulu post), the magnitude and brutality (and yet hope somehow) relayed through the interviews of survivors made me realize how much work remains in terms of educational, political, legal, health and infrastructure improvements, and mental health care needs for northern Ugandans. Everyone talks about the long road and improvments that have been made since the LRA left the region. The amount of work to be done remains large. I STRONGLY encourage you to view the video if you can get it. Visit: http://www.ugandarising.com/home.html. I will definitely buy a copy to bring home or get while at home and have a showing. I am thankful that my friend Sheena here, whose roommates, recent graduates of Yale College, helped organize this, alerted us to the festival. Groups such as Invisible Children, World Vision, Rotary International, Save the Children, and others (including one I will describe in my Thanksgiving Day post) need our continued support to do the important work up north.

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