JRP and ICTJ launch reparations report

Oryem Nyeko

FOLLOWING A LAUNCH  in Kampala, the Justice and Reconciliation Project and the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) held the Gulu launch of their most recent report “Unredressed Legacy: Possible Policy Options and Approaches to Fulfilling Reparations in Uganda” on Thursday, 21 February 2013. The event was attended by representatives of northern Uganda CSOs and war victims’ associations such as the Kitgum Women Peace Initiative, the Women’s Advocacy Network and the Moyo Town War Victims Association. It served both as the official launch for many that contributed to its content and as an opportunity for discussion and feedback on the way forward for reparations in Uganda.

A “practical document”

Intended to be a “practical document” for to be presented to the government, the report makes clear what direction reparations in Uganda should take in the view of the ICTJ, JRP and victims’ groups. Drawing on challenges and successes of reparation policies in Peru, Sierra Leone and Timor-Leste, the report discusses the need to establish a legal reparations framework and how such a policy should be framed and implemented in Uganda.

Why now?

The report notes that under international law the state is responsible for reparations for its own actions as well as those of the LRA and other non-state actors as “the primary duty bearer for guaranteeing human rights, pursuing accountability, and delivering justice and reparation to victims”.

Discussions on reparations, and the form they should take, have been on the table since the Juba Agreement on Accountability and Reconciliation was signed in 2007. Despite this, the Government has implemented only ad hoc initiatives in the form of development and humanitarian aid programmes. This report suggests that now is the time to design and implement a comprehensive reparations programme for victims of conflict in northern Uganda that is distinct from these past interventions.

A reparations policy for whom?

The report proposes that the Government implement both an urgent and a comprehensive reparations policy. It stresses the importance of specifically defining who should be eligible, why, and when to avoid ambiguity and the creation of unrealistic expectation – ultimately, the policy should acknowledge as many victims as possible and allow specific material forms of reparation while prioritising those that need them most. For each component of the proposed programme, the report suggests potential lead institutions, such as the Ministry of Health and District Local Government for meeting psychosocial support needs, and identifies the steps required to move forward as well as the potential delivery modalities.

Way forward, recommendations, discussions and implementation

Implementing the programme would require consultation with local government and communities, working with war victim associations, supervision of the implementation at community level by technical government staff, as well as constant dialogue with existing service providers, such as local school teachers, hospital administrators and social workers, who may provide some of the solutions to practical problems. On the issue of funding, the report calls for the creation of a reparations fund under the national budget, narrowing the types of violations which would be eligible for reparations and limiting the amount to what government can deliver over time.

An English version of the report and summaries in Lugbara, Acholi, Langi and Iteso were distributed and are available on JRP’s website.