By Oryem Nyeko
The French WRITER, Anatole France once said, “All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy.” It is this paradox – that change can be both necessary and painful – that speaks to the human condition that so often wants to express itself.
It has been only three months since the release of the inaugural issue of Voices Magazine but many things have changed within the transitional justice framework of Uganda. The legal implication of amnesty in the Ugandan context appears to be undergoing a subtle evolution as the Supreme Court considers the issue of amnesty.
In the same vein, perceptions on the relevance, content and structure of reparations programmes continue to evolve – the International Criminal Court, for example, recently made a significant pronouncement on the issue of reparations in its decision on the former Congolese war lord Thomas Lubanga Dyilo (“What the ICC Decision on Reparations Means for Gender Justice”, page 19).
For the reason that it is currently at the centre of transitional justice debates in Uganda and in other post-conflict societies, the topic ‘reparations’ was chosen as the theme of the second issue of Voices,
Many are not too sure of the true significance of reparations – what does it mean for Uganda and other societies in a state of transition? Is it something people want? Does it mean the same thing for everyone? With the objective of sharing victim centred views we at JRP sought the actual position. In doing so and through our interaction with victims of the conflict we have found that, to use a borrowed phrase, reparations are the ‘language victims are speaking’.
Some individuals have formed collectives to fight for compensation for the damage they have suffered to their bodies (“The Day Everything Changed”, page 30), women have expressed their unique perspective on what they think reparations should involve (“Ododo Wa”, page 15) and as surprising as it may be, a humble animal – the goat – may be one of the answers to the challenge of reconciling Northern Uganda (“Goats for Reconciliation”, page 27).
But how should reparations be administered, and is the Government of Uganda setting an appropriate precedent with the ones it has given out? (“Reparations, Not Handouts”, page 28).
With that said, JRP too has experienced the contradiction that is change. Over the last few months, sad good byes were said to members of the JRP family, while a set of new faces – myself included – were warmly welcomed. As we look to the future, we have to concede to the inevitability of change. It is a part of life, but what its impact will be on our lives, and the future of the country remains to be seen.▪