Abomination: Local belief systems and international justice, FN V

Local contexts must begin to better inform Western-based approaches to transitional justice; without them, external interventions often fail to resonate with the values, norms and beliefs of victims. To illustrate this point, this edition of Field Notes focuses on the Acholi concept of kiir, or abomination. Kiir is a transgression of the moral order which is believed to cause serious misfortune, including disease, spiritual haunting and death. Not only has the conflict in northern Uganda created the conditions that have allowed these transgressions to occur; the conflict has also been called an abomination in and of itself. A curse on the people of Acholi and consequent mass displacement are thought to have multiplied acts of abomination as well as reduced the capacity to deal with them: a cleansing ceremony must be performed in order to rectify the impact of kiir.

This Field Note attempts to bring the reader closer to an understanding of local belief systems. Gaining insight into these beliefs can aid international justice systems to better reflect the lived realities of the victim population.

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