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.
So it’s been a while. The peace talks in Juba are in process, and a cessation of hostilities was successfully negotiated in late August. LRA fighters have been assembling in safe zones, IDPs are going home, and Museveni is behind the talks, to the tune of his (pledged) physical participation and $1 million. It’s not all smooth sailing — both the LRA and the Government of Uganda have threatened to pull out several times — but it looks like things are headed in the right direction.
Other important updates: if you know of a male virgin in Uganda, please inform BBC blogger Akii-Bua Denise as soon as possible.
I think I’m starting to get the hang of this conflict resolution thing. The trick is to commit yourself, resolutely, in one direction, and then change your mind just as resolutely. Repeat:
May 4, 2006: no peace talks
May 17, 2006: peace talks
May 25, 2006: no peace talks
June 14, 2006: peace talks
June 14, 2006: no peace talks
June 17, 2006: peace talks
June 17, 2006: no peace talks
July 3, 2006: peace talks
May 16, 2006: kill Kony
June 21, 2006: work with Kony
June 22, 2006: kill Kony
June 26, 2006: work with Kony
July 7, 2006: reject amnesty
July 8, 2006: accept amnesty
Museveni said he would give Kony until August to work for peace, but it appears that pressure from the ICC has gotten to him. The Ugandan government refused to meet with LRA leadership today in Juba, Sudan, the site of the peace talks arranged by the southern Sudanese government.
Okello Oryem, Uganda’s junior foreign minister, passed the conflict and the LRA off as a “regional problem now – not a Uganda problem” and called for southern Sudan, the DRC and UN forces in Sudan to arrest Kony.
So let’s get this straight. First, Museveni says he won’t negotiate with Kony. Then Kony says he wants peace, so Museveni gives him until August. The ICC says no way and that Museveni must arrest Kony and the rest of the LRA leadership. The U.S. jumps in and says we’ll capture Kony by December. The regional government of Southern Sudan meets with Kony and Otti and gives the LRA $25,000, supposedly on the condition that they enter into peace negotiations (which the ICC has banned, remember?). Despite the pleas of religious leaders in northern Uganda to focus on peace, Interpol issued their own arrest warrants for Kony and five other LRA commanders, adding to the international pressure against negotiations. Meanwhile, the SPLA and Kony plan to start negotiations next week.
In other news, Ugandan students have invented a pot refrigerator. If only that were as wonderful as it sounds.