Dialogue in Gulu on Saturday, 3 September
3

Talking justice and reconciliation in Gulu

7 September 2016 - 14:09

This past Saturday Let’s Talk, Uganda organised a dialogue at the District Council Hall in Gulu. It’s the third of these events, following the ones held in Lukodi and Odek. As with the previous dialogues, the aim of the discussion was to facilitate a conversation between Ugandans on issues facing post-conflict Uganda.

In agreement with people in Lukodi and Odek

At the beginning of the dialogue, we played a clip of what a few people in Lukodi and Odek had said during their dialogues. One thing that immediately struck a chord was a clip of a man in Lukodi questioning why compensation was given to families and victims of the 2010 Kampala bombings and not people in their community. He had said that it was discriminatory, and one of the participants in Gulu agreed:

“When we compare what happened in Kampala and in Gulu/Acholi regarding compensation… Nothing has happened. Why is that?” 

The same speaker argued that it is important to go through a truth-telling process in order to facilitate processes like compensation. The transitional justice policy in Uganda is taking too long to be implemented, he added.

Another speaker, reflecting on the dialogues in Lukodi and Odek, agreed with the assessment by some speakers there that despite the silence of the guns, northern Uganda is still not peaceful.

"I have heard that the people from Lukodi and Odek said that there is no peace in the region. There is only negative peace because there are still emerging conflicts which are negatively affecting people. For example, the people of Odek are marginalised. Hence there is no peace although the guns are silent."

Leadership and consultation

Leadership was a key issue that was brought up by a number of people during the dialogue. One person went as far as to say he was “very angry that our leaders are not present at this dialogue”.

The commment was indicative of the issues that the community wants to let their leaders know about. One of them is the need for leaders to consult with their constituents. As one person put it:

Reparations cannot happen when there is no framework to guide the reparation process. They are many existing projects targeting the youth, but because of corruption, our youth have not fully benefited from these. There is need to a consult the youth as opposed to just introducing programmes designed to benefit them."

A woman agreed with this idea. But she also highlighted the continued challenges faced by children born of war.

"As far as reparations are concerned, there is need to identify the right people in order for justice to prevail. [Programmes like] NUSAF are not for those who suffered the effects of war the most. The lack of support from the community persists. Children born of war are still facing challenges and abuse from the same community that ought to protect them. Many of these children are orphans without an identity. For example, a child born of war was raped by a man simply because of what had happened to his children during war."

On the role of leaders:

"Following what happened in Laroo Boarding School [a primary school for war-affected children in Gulu that has been shut down] was a result of the failure of our leaders. They let us down. There is too much corruption, and it is the only snake that keeps biting us."

Forgiveness

Towards the end of the dialogue, we asked the community what their views were on the ongoing cases of Dominic Ongwen at the ICC and Thomas Kwoyelo at Uganda’s ICD. Forgiveness was a major theme for some of the speakers.

"If Dominic Ongwen and Kwoyelo are on trial, what justice has been meted out to other commanders who committed equally serious atrocities? These two combatants should be forgiven. Their trial should rather be a sign that peace has returned to the country."

Another speaker agreed, saying “the trial of Kwoyelo has become a business for some people”. "We should realise", he said, "that Kwoyelo did not go to the bush of his own accord. He was abducted. Therefore, if he is ever convicted, the Acholi people will not have benefited in any way.”

Online comments

As the dialogue was going o,n we shared updates with the Let’s Talk, Uganda community and asked for your views, some of which were shared during the event. Here are some highlights from Facebook.

Peace talks are best…

"The work of reconciliation and mediation is good but hard. Peace talks would be best set to resolve verbal conflict before it turns into armed conflict. Many countries have electoral and transitional verbal conflicts which when not amicably solved end in violent conflicts.

Reparations, livelihoods and mato oput…

"This discussion should reflect on reparations for the LRA victims. Reparations to the UPDF victims. Both of torture and economic loss. Compensation for the dead by both LRA and UPDF. Livelihoods are a must. Mato oput for the local population for reconciliation purposes."

Truth-telling is the most important part

"Truth-telling is the most important part of justice and reconciliation. Without it, reconciliation cannot take place, and there will only be an imaginary justice. Both the LRA and the government of Uganda should tell their truths because it's we the civilians who suffered from this untold truth."

What’s next?

Now that the Gulu dialogue is done, we’re going to be heading to Lira for the next event. What do you want to talk about? What is important to you? Let us know, and we may include it in the next dialogue.

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Photo: Justice and Reconciliation Project

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Comments

What is the possibility that we can arrange one in Rwenzori region specifically kasese.Am sure you all know what has been happening here in rwenzori region. As team Educate, we can arrange with your shttps://www.facebook.com/Educate-A-Child-International-512410038944562/upport.
Lets talk a but da groth of da region an da welfare of da peopl who ar living within da region,but peopl chuld for give ech others.
actually to be fair, what had happened in northern uganda,was just a misery war (painfull) which resulted in to displacement of people from one place to another, conflict, bloodshed,land precaiming(misuse of land).> parhap from today, peace has return,but still creazy bald head has come,to start fooling &waking northerner from very long battle, let,s seek a way developing but not by jailing the rebeller, those day we could hear from the otherside, that kill them before they grow,it was master planner who did that dat, again from today we still hear conemen still come different country to come 4 further investigation, lastly truth remain the fact that we are still waiting 4 those one who are coming with monster power to destory us ...[email protected]