traditional justice

BBC’s Barney Afako published an article in last Friday’s Focus on Africa about traditional Acholi reconciliation rituals, acknowledging the potential of these ceremonies to help restore peace in northern Uganda. Acholi culture shuns revenge in favor of problem-solving and peace-making, and many reconciliation rituals exist to help restore harmony in the community. The most well-known of these is mato oput, which involves sharing a bitter drink made from the leaves of the oput tree with your former enemy and pledging to leave all bitterness in the past. Afako ends the article with the hope that mato oput and other rituals can be used to create peace in northern Uganda.

What BBC neglects to mention is that other communities and cultures besides the Acholi have been destroyed by the decades-long conflict between the Government of Uganda and the Lord’s Resistance Army. As Katy Glassborow points out in her SperoNews article, “Peace versus justice in Uganda”, the Lango, Teso and Madi communities have also experienced a horrifying range of atrocities over the last 20 years. These cultures treat justice much differently from the Acholi, with punishment for wrongdoings ranging from exile to death.

A comprehensive peace proposal for Uganda must take all those affected by the war into account, paying attention to the wide variety of cultures in northern Uganda. More work should be done on traditional justice in the Lango, Teso and Madi communities in order to develop a viable plan for national reconciliation.