We’re fans of the folks at The Justice and Reconciliation Project (JRP) — they’re great people doing great work. Recently, JRP released an interesting report that focuses on the feelings and perceptions of LRA-affected communities in northern Uganda toward Uganda’s Amnesty Act.
The Uganda Amnesty Act of 2000 grants amnesty to any rebel combatant from 1986 onward who lays down his or her weapons and renounces the rebellion. According to JRP’s report, more than 10,800 former members of the LRA have received amnesty through the Act as of August 2008, and have re-joined their communities with less harassment and stigma than they otherwise would have experienced without this national policy of forgiveness. The Amnesty Act has been shown to actively encourage combatants to defect from the LRA, with the promise that they will be accepted back home. This is very important, as so many LRA combatants were abducted as children and were unwilling combatants in the first place.
As reflected in the report, JRP researchers interviewed a spectrum of Acholi community members, from local leaders to former-abductees, and asked what they thought of amnesty. Their findings show overwhelming support for the Amnesty Act and many respondents argued that Uganda’s amnesty policy is partially to thank for the peace that the region has experienced since the LRA left Uganda’s borders in 2006. It helps clean the slate and faciliate forgiveness for the unwilling fighters, from both their community and their country.
Interestingly, some of the respondents said they wished that even the top commanders would be granted amnesty, arguing that almost everyone aside from LRA leader Joseph Kony was at one time a victim.
Currently, the Amnesty Act of 2000 is due to either expire or be extended in May 2012, making JRP’s report especially timely.
In this same vein, this spring Resolve will be lobbying our leaders in Washington with the recommendation that part of the $10 million in foreign aid Congress recently authorized for the LRA-affected communities should go towards the rescue, rehabilitation, and reintegration of LRA combatants.
In the case of the LRA, amnesty is an important component of peace and restoration that must go hand-in-hand with focused efforts to support ex-combatants as they seek healing and reintegrate with their communities.
This report is just 3 pages long and fascinating from beginning to end. Take a few minutes to read it yourself.