July 18, 2007

Joseph Kony: Wanted for War Crimes, Betting on a Settlement

It was Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni who triggered the indictment of Joseph Kony and other former leaders of the Lord’s Resistance Army by the International Criminal Court in 2003.

Now Museveni wants the court to drop the charges, to the consternation of the international community.

Rather than jeopardize the ongoing peace talks with Kony and his officers, who face 33 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, Museveni offered the men a blanket amnesty, which may or may not be legal.

The LRA has said it will not sign a comprehensive peace agreement until the charges are dropped.

Accountability is the question, although the people of the Acholi tribe in northern Uganda, who were most affected by the violence, have a different answer.

They would be satisfied to see the LRA engage in “mato oput,” a form of traditional justice that sees the accused drink a bitter potion from the oput tree.

Many Acholi feel arrest warrants are unnecessary.

They want to resolve the issue and go home — about 1.6 million Ugandans still live in refugee camps.

The prospect of return — and forgiveness — is complicated for Okeny Edigio, who as a child soldier with the LRA was rewarded by his superiors for burning more civilian huts than anyone else in his group.

Okeny eventually escaped and now runs a nonprofit brick-making business in his hometown.

“The atrocities we were doing were beyond humanity,” he says.

Sources:

“Kampala may demand annulment of LRA warrants”
Institute for War and Peace Reporting, July 12, 2007

“What northern Ugandans really want”
Reuters, July 13, 2007

“Tales from a child soldier”
Philadelphia Inquirer, July 8, 2007

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