- May 22, 2013
- From the Team
Just over a year ago I wrote a post arguing that the Ugandan government should renew the country’s Amnesty Act because it was crucial to encouraging members of the LRA to peacefully return home. I guess Ugandan ministers don’t read our blog very closely, because a few weeks later the Ugandan government gutted the Act, removing the provision that allows returning members of the LRA and other armed groups to receive amnesty.
A year later, the cost of this decision is clear. Dozens of Ugandans have escaped or defected from the LRA and returned home, only to find themselves in a legal limbo, unable to receive amnesty. This not only includes former male combatants, but also women abducted years ago as young girls who have now have no legal protection from the Ugandan government. Though the Ugandan government is unlikely to prosecute women who return from the LRA, they can use the lack of an amnesty offer as leverage to force former male combatants to join the Ugandan military and fight against the LRA.
Just as disturbing, the work of the Amnesty Commission has almost ground to a halt. Though no longer able to grant amnesty, the remaining sections of the Amnesty Act that were spared the axe last year allowed the Amnesty Commission to continue providing reintegration support to people returning from the LRA. However, the Amnesty Commission has struggled to secure funding and is erratic, at best, in providing new returnees fresh from the LRA with assistance in restarting their lives.
This week, the Ugandan government has a chance to reverse course and reinstate the amnesty-granting provision of the Amnesty Act. Uganda’s Parliament has expressed support for such a move, as have civil society leaders from across Uganda (see below for a joint statement released today which The Resolve supported). Let’s hope that the Ugandan government listens to their voices.
Welcoming the Resolution of Parliament to Restore the Amnesty Act
Amnesty reinstatement: Press statement from civil society organisations
Wednesday, 22 May 2013
GULU – We the civil society organisations and community and religious leaders welcome the resolution of the Parliament of Uganda on 15th May 2013 calling on the Government to reinstate Part II of the Amnesty Act, which was lapsed on 23rd May 2012, and also to extend the duration of the Act, including Part II, for two more years.
We heartily congratulate the Defence and Internal Affairs Committee for its thorough and well-considered report, which reflected the views of the various stakeholders and the victim-communities.
We call upon His Excellency the President, the Minister of Internal Affairs and the Attorney General, in particular, to ensure that the resolution of Parliament, which received support across the political spectrum, is urgently implemented before the Act lapses on 24th May 2013.
We are confident that the restoration of the amnesty will make a positive contribution to the cause of peace in Uganda and the region, by facilitating the defection of rebels, and encouraging other rebel groups to settle their grievances peacefully with the Government.
We are aware that the Government of Uganda proposes to develop further principles for addressing the past, but we are convinced that it is essential first to reinstate Part II of the Amnesty Act, even as proposals on transitional justice are developed in a considered, unhurried manner.
We will continue to work with all stakeholders and the Government to bring sustainable peace to Uganda and the region.
Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative
Concerned Parents Association
Gulu NGO Forum
Human Rights Focus, Gulu
Iteso Cultural Union
Justice and Peace Commission, Gulu
Justice and Reconciliation Project
Ker Kwaro Acholi
Refugee Law Project
The Resolve LRA Crisis Initiative
Rt. Bishop M. Baker Ochola – Kitgum Archdiocese
Rt. Bishop Onono Onweng – Diocese of northern Uganda
Rt. Rev. Canon Johnson Gakumba – Diocese of northern Uganda
Sheik Musa Khelil – Chief Khadi of Acholi
Uganda Historical Memory & Reconciliation Council