News and Views

Leaders petition Parliament of Uganda over Amnesty Act

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By Mary Karugaba

Traditional, religious and civil society organisations in areas affected by the LRA insurgency have protested the decision by internal affairs minister stopping some of the provisions of the Amnesty Act.

In a petition to Parliament, the over 20 leaders led by Bishop John Baptist Odama, said the minister’s decision should be revoked and demand that clear procedures and plans for the promotion of reconciliation be tabled.

In May 2012, the minister evoked his discretion under section 16 of the Amnesty Act and declined to extend the application of part II of the Act. Through statutory instrument number 34 of 2012, the section was declared as having lapsed.

This means, unless another provision is provided, some rebels will not be given amnesty.

Since its enactment in 2000, over 26,000 individuals from over 25 armed groups, have abandoned insurgency and have been integrated into society.

However the leaders argued that although a large part of northern Uganda is enjoying relative peace, the LRA have shifted their operations from Uganda to the DRC and CAR and most of the fighters are young Ugandans who were abducted by the rebels and need pardon.

“The young victims continue to be kept within LRA ranks through fear. How can they be treated as though they were willing combatants? They are trapped in the bush, lacking real opportunity to defect, so when they get the opportunity, they try to escape and they should be received and helped to reintegrate,” the petitioners said.

The leaders argued that the Amnesty policy has immensely been successful and today the LRA is week and small in number because of the policy that has encouraged many to defect.

“Ever since the beginning of the LRA conflict, several agencies as well as the Government of Uganda have employed, with considerable success, programmes that encourage defection. It is beyond disputation that the decision to remove the amnesty provisions was premature and legally unnecessary,” the petition stated.

The petitioners fear that if the provision is removed, it will set back the cause of peace, reconciliation and accountability not only for Uganda but also for the neighboring countries.

“The absence of the amnesty has created a lacuna in the manner of dealing with people returning from the bush and is causing panic and unease among the communities in the affected areas,” they said.

They added that individuals continue to come out of the bush and because of the minister’s move; the Amnesty Commission is being forced to turn them away.

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