Book Heaps Praise on ICC For Promoting Local Justice Mechanisms Top story

3967 Views Kitgum, Uganda

In short
Dr Sarah said Acholi’s Mato Oput became part of the national vocabulary and opened ways for donor funding to support the mechanism.

The intervention of the International Criminal Court-ICC in the LRA and Dafur conflict promoted the study of the African traditional justice mechanisms and accelerated debate on transitional justice, a new book by Cambridge University law faculty has revealed. The Book Titled ‘complementarityin the Line of Fire’ examines the critical effects the ICC has had on the creation of Uganda’s International Crimes Division of the High Court, African Traditional Justice Mechanisms, Uganda’s Amnesty Act and the Juba Peace Process among others.

Launching the book at the National Memory and Peace Documentation Center of the Faculty of Law of Makerere University in Kitgum district, Dr. Sarah Nouwen, the author of the research work said the ICC greatly catalyzed the international study of Mato Oput, the Acholi traditional justice system in Uganda, the Gachacha of Rwanda and the South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commissions as alternative justice mechanisms for dealing with crimes against humanity.

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Dr Sarah said Acholi’s Mato Oput became part of the national vocabulary and opened ways for donor funding to support the mechanism. This, she says made the cultural practice to gain a prominent place in Accountability and Reconciliation Agreements negotiated in Juba peace talks.

Subsequently the government of Uganda accepted that the practice could be used to solve local conflicts. She said this has protected the intangible cultural practice, which could have been extinct. In the book, Dr Sarah argues that the ICC undermined the Amnesty Act and compromised the trail of captured LRA Thomas Kwoyelo in the International Crimes Division of the High court.

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The effect is that it compromised the effectiveness of the Amnesty Act as a transitional justice mechanism when serious questions were raised in the constitutional court as to whether the act could deal with crimes committed outside Uganda.

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The ICC has in recent years been criticized by President Yoweri Museveni and other African leaders for allegedly witch-hunting only the African heads of states and official, a claim Dr Sarah Nouwen largely agrees to in her book. 

Community members who attended the launch of the book said the traditional justice mechanisms reconciled the parties better than the ICC since the court promoted itself as a court for international community other than the affected society in a country.

Lyandro Komakceh, a senior law researcher with Refugee Law Project said the work of Dr. Sarah is eye opening. Komakech said the book should inform Africa to preserve some of its conflict mitigation norms and practices faced with threats if extinction by documenting them for future generations.


About the author

Peter Labeja
Peter Labeja has been a practicing journalist for the last 13 years during which he has covered part of the brutal conflict which bedeviled Northern Uganda as well as the painful transition to Peace thereafter. Emerging post conflict issues such as land rights of under privileged widows and orphans, challenges of access to social services in the immediate aftermath of Lord’s Resistance Army conflict in Northern Uganda.

Labeja is now the Northern Uganda Bureau chief in Acholi Sub Region since 2014 - Gulu, Amuru, Nwoya and Omoro districts as well as South Sudan falls within his areas of jurisdiction. He previously worked with The Vision Group for four years.

Labeja’s major career interests are in Climate Change; Agriculture and Environment - natural resources such as Water, Oil and Gas; Transitional Justice; Human Rights, Democracy and Governance as well as South Sudan’s humanitarian crisis. In 2013, Labeja was awarded a prestigious Pan African Journalism Award for excellence in journalism at United Nation’s UNEP headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya for Climate Change and Health Reporting.