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The time has come to forgive Dominic Ongwen

14 February 2017 - 12:02

If all the entire people of Acholi, northern Uganda, Uganda, north, east, Central Africa, all the places where the LRA operated and the ICC could listen to me, this is what I would appeal to them: forgive and move forward.

What the LRA did cannot be undone

People die, whether by man-made or natural causes, but this shouldn't prevent us from moving forward. Whatever the LRA did has already happened and we can never undo them through whatever punishment may be awarded to the perpetrators like Ongwen and others. Unless we forgive, we may never move forward. The reparations that most people are talking about isn't the solution but can be one of the means to healing.

When you close your eyes, take a deep breath and reflect on where you were more than 20 years ago, then forgiveness seems difficult but it is a noble call with no physical cost attached to it. We may only look at the immediate benefits of reparation which are time-framed as opposed to forgiveness which can last for generations to come.

Forgiveness can be felt instantly

Assuming reparations are in the form of cows and other agricultural input, bear in mind that agriculture in Africa hugely depends on nature. Say, for instance, the cattle die and the agricultural input fails to bear fruits, won't you go back to your former self?

Forgiveness, on the other hand, can be felt instantly because it is within the heart and soul. No amount of punishment given to Ongwen and others still at large can be equal to the unspeakable crimes they committed. Remember, this isn’t a family-to-family problem and it is beyond northern Uganda as a region.

Some people are still controlled by bitterness, which of course is normal. They have been treated cruelly and wish bad things would happen to their offenders. Some brood for years, tormented by memories of the wounds they received. When you refuse to forgive others who have hurt you, you are giving them permission to keep hurting you time and again. You continue to be a slave to their offense.

Peace is not possible without forgiveness

Let’s face it—even after you forgive somebody you might not be able to forget what happened. But Martin Luther said, “You can’t keep the birds from flying over your head but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.”

It might be hard at first, but remember, until a person is converted, it is perfectly normal for him to act like a selfish devil. Peace is not possible without forgiveness and the only way children can learn the habit of forgiveness is by seeing us, their parents, forgive others and ourselves as well.

Reparations will do more harm

With northern Uganda and Uganda as a whole in its current form - extreme poverty, unemployment, bitterness, corruption, etc - coupled with the bitter experiences of the Opwonya-led Acholi War Debt Claimant’s Association, I anticipate reparation to do more harm than its intended purpose if it is not handled with the utmost care which it deserves.

Why? First, not everybody suffered equally during the LRA war. Secondly, since most people want reparation in the form of tangible goods to meet their daily needs so the distribution will never be done equally. Thirdly, most families know the magnitude their neighbour suffered and if the one who suffered less ends up getting more, say because of some invisible hands behind them, they will never see eye-to-eye and this is what we’re trying to avoid.

Lasting impact

If reparations will ever be there, I strongly recommend that it should be in the form of shared public goods and services like schools, hospitals, roads, counselling centers and museums built in memory of the LRA victims and survivors. This is the only form of reparation I vividly see that can be truly shared equally and with lasting impact.

The only remedy is letting go and being willing to forgive. Do you need to erase the face of an enemy in your life? It is time to let it go.

Wan Acholi, wagak Acholi. We are Acholi, we remain Acholil.

Fred Okot is “a true Acholi spirit from Lacor Kati Kati, Gulu district.”

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Comments

He may be forgiven but also it might be an example to others.
i think he has been purnished enough so we must forgive him