A debate is raging on in parts of northern Uganda whether or not the Amnesty Act that enacted in 2000 to offer amnesty to all rebels should be extended beyond its May 23 timeline.
A debate is raging on in parts of northern Uganda whether or not the Amnesty Act that enacted in 2000 to offer amnesty to all rebels should be extended beyond its May 23 timeline. Majority of the residents want the act extended to allow many of their children who are still in rebel captivity to return home. A report from Amnesty Commission shows that over 26,000 people have benefited from the law after denouncing rebellion and have been resettled.
Betty Acayo, a child mother who was abducted by the LRA rebels at twelve year and forced to marry one of the rebel commanders says the law should be extended to enable the children still trapped in captivity to return home without the fear of prosecution. Helen Acham, the chairperson of Northern Uganda Transitional Justice Working Group says that the Act should be extended with amendments spelling out serious crimes whose offenders should not be forgiven. She adds that the amendment should also make provision for gender balance saying the current law does not address gender.
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Baker Ochola, a retired Anglican bishop is among those who want the amnesty extended. He however adds that the law should be modified to fit the international legal provision on serious crimes like war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. He explains that allowing the law to expire without extension could cause more problems such as continued conflict in the country.
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Santo Okema, the program officer at Acholi cultural institution says that they too support the extension of the law. He however says that a provision should be made to strengthen the aspect of truth telling to facilitate reconciliation among the former combatants and the rest of the community members.
Presently, government is under the spotlight on whether or not it will provide amnesty for Thomas Kwoyelo, a former LRA rebel commander who has remained in prison despite a directive by the constitutional court that he should be granted amnesty and released. Kwoyelo was initially charged with several counts of war crimes but the court ruled that the trial against him should cease owing to the amnesty law.
According to the law, any person who waged armed resistance against the government from January 1986 but sought pardon should not be punished. If allowed to expire without extension, the rest of the rebels including the children they abducted would easily be prosecuted while an extension without amendment would continue to court controversy as the law provides general forgiveness for any rebel who denounces rebellion against government.
retired bishop baker ochola
northern uganda transitional justice working group