Transitional Justice Processes In Uganda Criminology Essay

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One of the most challenging and complex issue that confronts post conflict societies is how to hold the perpetrators of gross human rights respond to the atrocities committed during the conflict while maintaining the delicate peace. This paper seeks to elucidate the Advocacy strategies adopted by FIDA-Uganda and other Women rights organisations, to engender the transitional justice mechanisms in Northern Uganda. Most transitional societies are often confronted with the issue of how to address the gros human rights violations that occurred in conflict . Transitional Justice refers to a range of approaches (judicial and non judicial) that societies undertake to reckon with legacies of widespread or systematic human rights abuse as they move from a period of violent conflict or oppression towards peace, democracy, the rule of law, and respect for individual and collective rights [1] . They take the form of truth commissions, trial and reparation schemes [2] . Makau Mutua refers to them as "… the midwife for a democratic, rule of law state" [3] The main objective of the transitional justice mechanisms is to provide post conflict societies with a holistic sense of justice; establish civic trust; reconcile people and communities and prevent impunity and future abuses. Makau Mutua describes them as indispensible foundations for sound constitutionalism, peace-building, and national reconciliation in post-conflict societies or societies emerging out of abusive, authoritarian, and fractured periods. [4] The role of civil society in shapping the forms of transitional justice by advancing institutional reform, fostering reconciliation and

re-integration, and promoting public deliberation. Cannot be underscored Transitional justice processes can only be successful if the government and the Civil Society organistions collaborate in their design and implementation [5] 

Role of Civil society in shapping and implementing TJ in Uganda

Civil society organisations play a vital role in deciding designing, implementing and monitoring the Transitional justice processes They document the human rights abuses that the societies have faced and provide necessary legal and psychosicial support to victims, mobilise empower and provide them with a public platform to demand for accountability from governement . their various roles in rehabilitating and rebuildfing postconflict communities has earned them the the trust of the communities hence enabling them to bridge the gap between government and the communities by using the information they have gathered to compel the government to to establish an accountability mechanisms to address past the violations. and also monitor the effectiveness of those accountability mechanisms in offering vjustice to victims, reconciling and rehabilitating communities. [6] They also play key role in disseminating information about hpw the communities can engage the Transitional justice mechanisms. Cicil society organisations play the above role in usually in difficult political and economic terrain, wih little funding, hostile and suspicious government, and traumatised community. The robust civil ociety in northern Uganda has been able to press government of traisnitional justice eg the War crimes dicvision of the High court has been established, The Rome statue has been domesticated by the ICC Act, and the traditional justice mechanisms have been engaged and interrogated to examine their strategic role in the accountability process

UJnfortunately the rocky relationship that esixts between the the Civil society organisations and government often leaves them exposed to restrictive enviromments and govemrnent disregards their recommendations. For example the Government of Uganda has not given much attention to the Draft National Reconciliation Bill which would have established a truth forum. The Bill isa product of civil society. In some situations the Civil society is faced with the challenge of serving as a partner to government and a critical evaluator which iss difficult to balance the tworoles and as a result it is unable to effectively hold government accountable

Civil society organistations have conducted research and surveysvto establish the efficacy of the various forms of transitional justice in adequately past injustices

The nature of transitional justice mechanisms in Uganda have to a certain extent been shaped by the experiences of other post conflict countries' experiences. This has given Uganda the unique opportunity to consider and implement the lessons learned from other countries' experiences.

FIDA-U notes with regret that women were absent when the architecture of the TJ mechanisms to be adopted in Northern Uganda was being conceptualised at Juba,. As a consequence there was a glaring absence of gender analysis of the conflict and supbsequrnt Transitional justice mechanism to be adopted. The Gender analysis would have presented a clear understanding of the roles women played during the conflict and and assist in desgining TJ processes that are responsive to the specific needs of women affected by the conflict by being raped and displaced the challenges was being designed. As a result women were absent at the negotiating table women'which would have ensured the incorporation of a gender perspective in later processes of peace building and reconciliation. Unfortunately, many transitional justice processes have neglected to give proper notice to gender issues and women's experience, which remain largely marginalized. In some cases they simply slot in women. We at FIDA_ U believe that Transitional justice mechanisms cannot simply "slot" gender-oriented notions of justice into existing processes, but rather needs to reconceptualise its methods and mechanisms

The patriarchal social construction which places men at a superior position to women has left women still struggling under an avalanche of disadvantages. The religious cultural and legal endorsement of these patriarchal values have perpetuated discrimination and subordination of women [7] .

The challenge for Africans is to develop both conceptual tools and strategies - at the political and intellectual levels - to smash the walls of invisibility and exclusion so that sexual and gender-based violence can be exposed to the sunlight of the public domain [8] 

Background to the Conflict

Uganda's history of impunity is characterized with militarism and extrajudicial revenge on soldiers and civilians associated with ousted regimes. Instability arises in part, due to lack of respect for constitutionalism where successive regimes have accessed power by violent means. Cycles of violence have been witnessed though military coups including: Milton Obote being ousted in 1971 and again in 1985, Idi Amin Dada's overthrow in 1979, and Tito Okello' fall in 1986. The historical militarization of Uganda's politics largely explains why the 18-year old rebellion in Northern Uganda against the NationalResistance Movement (NRM) government has been seen as part of "normal"political business. [9] 

The twenty year conflict in Northern Uganda between Government of Uganda's (GoU) armed forces, and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) witnessed widespread human rights abuses committed against the civilian population. The human rights violations included mass abductions of children, sexual violence, mutilations and destruction of property.

After years of military campaigns and indifferent or disingenuous participation in peace initiatives, the Government of Uganda finally committed to high-level, sustained peace negotiations, called the Juba peace process, with the LRA in mid-July 2006. [10] The agenda of the Juba peace process included cessation of hostilities, a comprehensive solution to the conflict, reconciliation and accountability, a formal cease-fire, and a plan for disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration.

The armed conflict in Northern Uganda has been characterized by appalling, widespread and systematic human rights violations, including mass killings, rape and the destruction of property on an unimaginable scale. Mr. Jan Egeland, the United Nations Under-Secretary General (USG) for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, stated that 'Northern Uganda remains the world's greatest neglected emergency'. [11] It is estimated that approximately two million people in Northern Uganda were forced out of their homes by the conflict and are living in internally displaced Camps. [12] It is also estimated that more than 20,000 children and women have been abducted by the Lord's Resistance Army LRA to serve as soldiers and sex slaves and thousands more have been killed or maimed. [13] 

The 20 year war was started by self styled Rebel leader known as Joseph Kony in 1997, who claimed to have been endowed with spiritual powers to cleanse the people of northern Uganda of their sins and to displace the government of President Museveni. [14] He obtained initial funding and support for the war from the Sudanese government which at the time, believed that the Kampala government was funding the Sudanese People Liberation Movement (SPLM) in Southern Sudan. [15] Despite the absence of a clear political motive the LRA engaged in a series of violence and;

"Established a pattern of 'brutalization of civilians' by acts including murder, abduction, sexual enslavement, mutilation, as well as mass burnings of houses and looting of camp settlements; abducted civilians, including children, are said to have been forcibly "recruited" as fighters, porters and sex slaves to serve the LRA and to contribute to attacks against the Ugandan army and civilian communities." [16] 

Having failed to put an end to the atrocities committed by the LRA, the government of Uganda in December 2003 referred the situation of the LRA in northern Uganda to the ICC. [17] 

Like many other conflicts, Sexual violence, particularly rape and sexual slavery, have both been methodically used as a tool of war and as an instrument of terror in Northern Uganda. [18] Many girls and women have been brutally raped, forced into sexual slavery, in order to provide relatively safe, cheap, and convenient sexual services to the fighters. [19] 

According to Human Rights Watch, most of the abducted girls aged fourteen or fifteen, were forced to work long hours and walk long distances in search for water and food for the rebels [20] . It is established that a sizeable number of the victims of sexual violence have either been infected with HIV/AIDS or are single parents. [21] The children born as a result of sexual violence have been rejected by the community. Women who were married before their abduction have been rejected by their husbands, upon their return, due to fear that they may infect them with HIV. [22] The failure to hold perpetrators of sexual violence accountable has created impunity and a continuous cycle of sexual violence.

The right to justice for victims of gross human rights violations during war or armed conflict has been provided for in a number of international instruments, ranging from the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to the Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law of 2005. [23] 

However despite the existence of the above provisions, many challenges still remain that have made justice elusive to a number of victims of sexual violence. [24] Illaria Botiglierro attributes this to "A general climate of impunity for gender crimes under international and national law [25] " where by many perpetrators of sexual violence get away with their crimes without being prosecuted and punished. Many victims of sexual violence face enormous legal economic, educational, and socio-cultural challenges while trying to seek justice. In most societies, they are stigmatized, and ostracised by both their families and their communities.


In most post conflict societies Women's rights have remained largely marginalised in the transitional justice process whose patriarchal constructions have privileged the experiences of men over those of women hence providing men with differential protection. [26] Most often the pervasive violations that women experience which include gender and sexual violence is almost never intergrated in transitional justice processes, and are usually an afterthought when it is.

As a consequence of the foregoing, Several women's organisations in Uganda formed a coalition Uganda women coalition for peace. Which sought to demarginalise women's rights issues at the peace negotiation and in the construction of the tranitional justice mechanisms in northern Uganda. They also wanted make certain that the most pervasive violations that women expreneinced are not obscured. FIDA uganda was uniquely placed to provide legal analysis of the peace process. The coalition was created with the expressed purpose of engendering the process to ensure that women's needs, concerns and priorities were reflected in the peace agreement and subsequent budget process. The various organisations recognised the strength that lies in having a one coherent voice rathare than having fragmented voices all seeking the same objective The groups included the Uganda Women's Network (UWONET) who led the coalition activities, the Centre for Conflict Resolution (CECORE), the Federation of Women's Lawyers (FIDA) who provided legal analysis and perspective to the process and the IsisWomen's International Cross Cultural Exchange (Isis-WICCE) who collectedinformation on women's priorities for peace. [27] 

The key objective of the coalition was to ensure that the transitional justice mechanisms identified in Juba would be in a position to effectively address the gender based human rights violations.


ThroughConsultative meetings, with an average of 750 people at each gathering, the coalition consulted and solicited views of grassroots women on theirexperiences, needs and priorities

The Coalition also mobilised resources for the participation of selected women representatives to lobby and observe the peace talks in Juba, and to participate in events such as the women's peace caravan which was an advocacy tool to

promote women's participation in all aspects of the peace process.

A permanent record of women's contribution to peace negotiations: The UWCP

documented women's mobilisation, engagement and advocacy around topical

issues of the peace process.

With the support of UNIFEM, the coalition created a peace caravan and peace torch which were both strategic tools to mobilise Ugandans to be involved and interested in the peace process in November 2006. The caravan started in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), travelled to Kenya and finally into Uganda as a gesture of women's support for the peace process. In Uganda, the peace torch traversed through the districts of Kampala, Luwero, Masindi (Bweyale), Lira, Gulu and Kitgum. The caravan sensitised Ugandans about the extent of the

Prominent among these violations were the various forms of sexual violence that were perpetrated during the armed conflict which ranged from rape, forced marriage abuductions sexual slavery and forced marriages. Sexual violence continues to be the most egregious from of violence during conflict however it remains largely unreported and draws the least attention of the media. [28] 

It is important for the identified TJ mechanisms to address the post conflict challenges that women who had been subjeceted to SGBV faced prominent being stigma and acess to justice

Women expressed concern over how the Mato Oput would be implemented without 'peace' being realised at the expense of women's dignity. Furthermore, women on the ground were asking us as a Coalition how the method would

address women's grievances since it was never used to resolve issues of sexual violence.

resolution through training women

leaders from various districts in understanding and analysing conflicts, as well

as learning how to manage and resolve conflicts. This led to the creation of a

number of community-based organisations that have undertaken activities

such as psycho-social work (counselling and trauma management), engaging

mothers of captive children to encourage them to come out of armed combat,

and working with formerly abducted child mothers

Issues of patriarchy and sexuality were used to deter women from public

participation. For instance, one key woman activist who contributed a lot to

the process and was an observer at the peace talks was intimidated on local

radio stations after it was suggested she was having sexual relationships

with negotiators.

FIDA-Uganda has engaged in institutional reformist measures for transitional justice. This has been done for both the formal and informal institutions that are legislative, judicial, political, economic, social, administrative, educational, sectoral, or a combination of some, or all of the above. To complicate the picture, civil society - broadlysociety. To center women's rights in a transitional justice project, one can imagine the repeal or enactment of laws that make the female gender visible in the legal system. These would include, but not be limited, to laws that sanction without pity sexual and gender-based violence. Or one could think of educational initiatives that develop a gender consciousness in the judicial system such that sexual and gender violence is not an afterthought or absent from the minds of judges.

By engaging the Cultural, institutions FIDA-U sought to unpack the myths from fact regarding sexuality gender-based violence, and womanhood within the cultural context of the Acholi. In most cultures, including African ones, the woman is viewed primarily as a sexual object for the pleasure of the man. Most cultures perceive women to be mere chattels of their husbands and are therefore stripped of any autonomy of their bodies. In such cultures, women's bodies and their sexualities are not the preserve of the individual, but of the community and the man. Consequently such conceptions women result in rape, defilement, and various brutalities against girls and women [29] 

The chief justice of Uganda has been on record stating that the law does not favour women. [30] Many laws which are in themselves a product of a patriarchal society, condone sexual stereotypes, of men's control over women's bodies and are grossly inadequate in addressing Sexual and Gender based violence. [31] 

To transform these deep-seated and utterly backward universes will require new constitutional and legal orders, a judiciary and state with the political will to stand up for women, and inclusion of women at all levels of social and political engagement. Having regard to this FIDA-Uganda has been involved in a series of advocacy initiatives aimed at transforming the law. FIDA-U acknowledges the difficultie of having statutes enacated and has embarked on forging alliances with members of the judiciary who have the capacity of transforming the law throught favourable jurisprudence. The members of the mbench have been trained on the latest developments in international criminal law on the crime of sexual violence. Emphasis has been placed on having the broad definition of rape in as stated in the Akayesu opinion, entrenched in our local jurisprudence which shall then guide their lordships in deciding cases of SGBV which is a path-breaking ruling in terms of making international law, is so important. It recognized for the first time in such a tribunal the seriousness of rape and other sexual offenses in the context of conflict and war as an element of genocide and crimes against humanity.

FIDA-U and other women's rights organisations sought to ease the reintegration of the survivors and their families back into society

one can imagine the repeal or enactment of laws that make the female gender visible in the legal system. These would include, but not be limited, to laws that sanction without pity sexual and gender-based violence. Or one could think of educational initiatives that develop a gender consciousness in the judicial system such that sexual and gender violence is not an afterthought or absent from the minds of judges -Uganda to integrate gender concerns in the TJmechanism

Engaging communities in debate

Public debates are an effective tool of increasing knowledge about the various transitional justice processes in place. Civil society I better place to give different dimension of situations that those presented by government

Training of peace monitors

FIDa-U trained female peace monitors who are equipped with the skills of preventing and addressing conflicts when they arise and how to perpetuate a message of peace

inadequate resources that occasionally prevented FIDA-U from focussing on issues and instead made it focused on Donor oriented events

The restricting environment created by the laws