Progress in untying the ICC-Northern Uganda knot?

Are Uganda’s talented people about to unlock the riddle of “peace versus justice” that has confounded so many other peoples around the world in recent times?
As long-time JWN readers are aware, I have a longstanding interest in the complex intersection between working for peace and working for ‘justice’, however the latter might be defined. (Hint: In my view, it is not co-terminous with “the orderly working of a western-style criminal court,” shocking as that thought might seem to some readers.)
Two years ago, I spent a little time in Uganda, trying to learn about the complex interaction there between the workings of the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC), which then had five arrest warrants outstanding against Ugandan citizens who were in the leadership of the long-standing Lord’s Resistance Army movement, and the peace process the Government of Uganda had been pursuing with– yes– exactly that same leadership of the LRA.
The ICC’s actions had caused the peace process to freeze in place, since LRA Joseph Kony and his colleagues feared that if they left “the bush”, that is, the inaccessible areas of northeastern DRC where they and their remaining fighters were hiding out, and came forward to complete the negotiation, then they would be arrested and whisked off to The Hague.
I did some interviews with members of the ethnic group most affected by the continuing insurgency, the Acholi. The vast majority of their numbers had by then been shut by the government into vast sprawling encampments described by the government and the “international community” as “IDP camps”, but which could more accurately be described as strategic hamlets or concentration camps. You can read some of my reporting from that trip, and from the interviews I had done immediately beforehand with ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, here.
Bottom line: The vast majority of the Acholi people seemed clearly to want to have the peace settlement with the LRA concluded, including by getting Kony “out of the bush” and bringing him back to be reintegrated in some way into civilian society.
That was two years ago. Moreno-Ocampo had a number of ways he could have withdrawn or suspended his indictments, but he chose not to pursue those paths. Of course, he was not living in a concentration camp for all that time.
Fast forward to today. Numerous Acholi community leaders have been working hard, along with representatives of both the government of Uganda and the LRA leadership to try to find a way to integrate into the country’s national legal system provisions of the Acholi traditional conflict-resolution mechanisms that would allow the reintegration of the vast majority of LRA people into their home communities in the context of the Final Peace Agreement, the return of the IDP/concentraion camp residents to their ancestral homes and lands, and the submission of Kony and his high-level colleagues to some form of national-level judicial process. This would get Ocampo and the ICC off all their backs, since the ICC is supposed to be subsidiary to national-level justice efforts.
In May, the excellent, Kampala-based Justice and Reconciliation Project held a very important workshop in Kampala, with high-level representatives of both the government and the LRA taking part, at which the questions around how exactly these accountability and reconciliation processes might be designed to work together in the interests of allowing the peace to proceed. The good people at the JRP recently put the Final Report of that workshop up onto their website. I found it a little hard to get the link to the actual report. But if you go to their website’s front-page, you can currently click there on the link that says “On Accountability: Agreement III, Juba Peace Talks,” and that will take you to it.
I regret I don’t have time right now to write out most of the comments I have on the report, which I read about a week ago. Suffice it to say, for now, that I think the JRP did a great job in convening the workshop, which looks as if it resolved numerous really important questions, including about the the relationship between the newly formed “Special Division” of the Ugandan judiciary and the ICC. (There will be none.)
I hope I can write some more about this later. But since the Uganda case is so very important in the whole, rather sad history of the ICC to date, I wanted to make sure this report gets the attention it deserves. Maybe some of you who have more time available than I do, or who have knowledge of the whole issue that’s more up-to-date than mine, can chime in here with some comments and move the discussion along a bit further.

One thought on “Progress in untying the ICC-Northern Uganda knot?

  1. KDJ

    H, thanks for returning the focus back to Africa, always nice to learn from your perspective (and those of JWN readers). I have nearly completed reading “All Things Must Fight to Live: Stories of War and Deliverance in Congo”, by the lively and articulate journalist Bryan Mealer. A woman of the DRC so profoundly states, “No one is here to help us-the world doesn’t look into the forest”…so compelling, and relative to some of the discussions here regarding interventions from outsiders, diplomacy and renunciations of violent atrocity-of which the DRC has witnessed so much-5 million people killed, and the violence intermittently continues…2,000 women and girls raped in Eastern Kivu in the past month…should the international community thoughtfully condemn this violence, and offer all of our supports to womens organizations in the Congo, it seems so.
    H, where do you locate the efficacy of TRC versus ICC charges (note that DRC VP/warlord Bemba has been summoned to the ICC, although the case against him is tragically very botched)?
    Another crucial case, the NI conflict, was also enormously brutal with civillians nearly always the target (see Susan McKay’s Bear in Mind These Dead) is instructive as McKay frequently references efforts at justice and reconcilliation, with several examples of the perpertrators of justice and their victims encountering each other (of course these encounters have not always yielded psychic resolution) they are important.
    Where do you situate the ICC as a _deterrent_ mechanism for perpertrators of armed conflict, versus localized instruments of justice, in both eliminating political violence as a neans of addressing grievences among peoples and state entities, as well as in exacting healing, versus TRC’s etc? Does deterrence matter?
    Hard to imagine Joseph Kony living off the people of the Central African Republic, after compelling such putrid human destruction-

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