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What course should the Juba talks take?
Description: FOR two intense days last week, a group of academics, educators, NGO workers, peace advocates and human rights researchers from Canada, United States, Uganda, and Europe gathered at the University of British Columbia to try to answer the question, &r
Date: 20 November 2006
Author: Opiyo Oloya
Source: New Vision Online
FOR two intense days last week, a group of academics, educators, NGO workers, peace advocates and human rights researchers from Canada, United States, Uganda, and Europe gathered at the University of British Columbia to try to answer the question, ”Where do we go from here now that peace talks for ending the 20-year war in northern Uganda is underway in Southern Sudan?“

The event, organised by the Liu Institute for Global Issues and Guluwalk, was the first time outside of the peace talks in Juba that a group of individuals from a variety of backgrounds and nationalities have sat to formally discuss issues arising out of the peace talks and to look at how the larger world community can support the peace process.

The workshop participants heard from those familiar with and close to the Juba peace talks, from academics who have studied the war in northern Uganda closely, and from peace advocates involved in pushing for peace in northern Uganda by lobbying Washington, Ottawa, Geneva, and the United Nations.

There was general agreement among the participants that the efforts from diverse organisations and grassroot movements have had some influence in the way North America and Europe look at the problem in northern Uganda. It was equally clear that intense lobbying by peace advocates at the United Nations had succeeded in moving the Security Council to issue a Presidential Statement on the peace process in Juba.

The most significant part of that statement was to invite ”UN member states to support efforts to bring to an end to this conflict so that peace and security can be restored to the region and the rule of law re-established.....“.

However, the group wrestled with the issue of accountability — what to do with those responsible for atrocities, indeed, what to do with the indictments of top LRA leaders handed down by the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

Intense discussions centred on the seemingly contradictory notion of transitional justice and traditional peace and reconciliation. Should the peace process in northern Uganda embrace the South African model of Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which focuses on accountability, the rule of law and an equal administration of justice, truth recovery and reconciliation?

Or should the focus be on traditional reconciliation that allows the community to bring together the perpetrators and victims in reaching for reconciliation and the healing of deep physical and psychological trauma inflicted by the war?

If the latter were adopted, how does the world ensure that there is justice for the victims and that impunity is denied to the perpetrators of the crimes against humanity?

Surprising to watch was that those passionately arguing for traditional Acholi justice and reconciliation while calling for the ICC to back off felt that the peace process might fail due to the indictments, and more importantly, that the western mode of justice is not valid in all circumstances.

Even more surprising was that the individuals who took this stance were from Europe and North America. One participant illustrated the dilemma succinctly by suggesting that there would be a double tragedy in the European model of justice were the perpetrators of vicious crimes incarcerated since most were children abducted in the morning of their innocence and turned into vicious killers and rapists.

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