Monday September 12 2011

Clergy demand truth and reconciliation commission for northern Uganda

By CISSY MAKUMBI & JAMES ERIKU

Religious leaders from the greater north have demanded that the government immediately institutes a truth and reconciliation commission to address the current ‘blame game’ among parties cited in atrocities during the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebellion.

Leaders from Lango, Acholi, West Nile and Karamoja sub-regions, during a regional consultative meeting on peace, democracy and good governance in Gulu last week said unless both the government and other partners realise the importance of telling the truth, many issues regarding the war would continue to haunt the region.

The truth and reconciliation commission, according to the leaders, would be tasked with discovering and revealing past mistakes by the state actors, non-state actors alongside the former rebels, with the hope of resolving issues the conflict has generated.

The retired Bishop of Kitgum Diocese, Macleord Baker Ochola, observed that with the volatile social environment where some people feel that those who meted pain to them have not faced justice , possible future retributions cannot be ruled if parties involved in the war do not come openly to confess their wrongs which could pave way for reconciliation.

“The government must take up a bold step to institute a special commission for this region because neglecting the situation could turn to be a time bomb waiting to explode anytime,” said the Rev. Ochola, adding that the commission could expedite reconciliation which can be the only way in dispensing justice to the victims of the war.

The retired bishop of Northern Uganda Diocese, Nelson Onono Onweng, emphasised the need to urgently have a mechanism that would help people understand the essence of the conflict to avoid resurgence of similar wars in the region. “Those who think that our work is only to lead the flock are mistaken; they will be proved wrong. Similar commissions have worked in other countries in restoring peace and reconciliations,” Bishop Onweng said.

President Museveni has been at the forefront of asking religious leaders to stay out of politics and governance, saying their role should instead be to morally guide the masses.

Countries that successfully set up and used truth and reconciliation commissions to reconcile their people after conflicts include South Africa, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Chile and Liberia. The International Criminal Court indicted five of the rebels’ top leadership for war crimes, including Joseph Kony, Dominic Ongwen, Raska Lukwiya, Vincent Otti and Okot Odhiambo, none of them has since been arrested. Pressure is also mounting on the court to indict some top UPDF officers who are accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

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