July 2007 marked the one-year anniversary of the initiation of peace talks between the Lord’s
Resistance Army (LRA) and the Government of Uganda, hosted in the southern Sudanese capital of Juba. JRP has taken an active role in bringing the concerns and demands for justice and reconciliation from the grassroots to the bargaining table. The June signing of Agenda Item Three on Accountability and Reconciliation was in part the result of weeks of JRP’s preparation of original research findings into a comprehensive presentation made to delegates. The seminar, entitled Towards a Common Understanding of Traditional, National, and International Justice Options, was co-organised by JRP with the International Center for Transitional Justice and convened Ker Kwaro Acholi on June 2 in Juba. The past year of research has uncovered a plethora of issues that must be addressed in order for lasting peace to be attained in Uganda.
From January through March, the JRP team conducted a major research phase in 9 IDP camps, examining community-level mechanisms that might facilitate a process of truth-telling at the local level in northern Uganda. The ensuing report, The Cooling of Hearts: Community Truth-Telling in Acholi-land examines the desires and fears of the war-affected populace in learning the truth about the now 21-year-old conflict. In an ongoing strategy of community consultation, this report was translated into Luo, brought back to the camps, and discussed in local papers, international forums, community dialogues, and on the radio. Consultations with local leaders were sought in order to refine the report to truly reflect the opinions of Acholi. It provides important new insights into current debates in the country and at the Juba peace talks on how justice can be served in northern Uganda.
Throughout the course of the truth-telling research, staff also uncovered a desire amongst residents that certain massacres be documented and that their consequences be discussed. JRP responded and produced Field Note 4: Remembering the Atiak Massacre of April 20, 1995, released in April. A JRP representative visited the community for the memorial ceremony; the site of one of many as-yet undocumented scars on the populace of northern Uganda. JRP continues to document other major atrocities and several similar reports are forthcoming in 2008.
A fifth Field Note entitled Abomination: Local belief systems and international justice was written by JRP in order to emphasize the need for policy-makers to understand the importance of understanding local spiritual beliefs in Acholi when considering transitional justice strategies in the region. In the spirit of previous JRP reports such as Roco Wat I Acholi (2005) and Alice’s Story (2006), this Field Note bridged the gap between indigenous and international motives for justice in Acholi.
JRP continues to lead its colleagues locally, nationally and internationally in the unification of local voices aiming to affect positive change in Juba, Garamba and Kampala. JRP was instrumental in to the release of the August 11th Lira Declaration on Agenda Item Three of the Juba Peace Talks by Cultural and Religious Leaders, Women and Youth from Madi, Teso, Lango and Acholi Sub-Regions. The Lira
Declaration is the result of a consultation attended and signed by the leadership of traditional and religious institutions, including women and youth representatives.
Project staff actively built upon their capacities as researchers and advocates throughout 2007, attending numerous workshops and presenting solutions to justice and reconciliation issues on behalf of JRP’s community partners. JRP will continue this important work in 2008 and beyond.
To access the report, click here.