peace in five questions, part two

My good friend Jared crafted such a knowledgeable, reasoned response to my earlier post about prospects for peace in northern Uganda that I'm going post the whole thing here and call him a guest blogger:

I agree with much of what Jackfruity wrote, as well as 27th Comrade's ideas that reconciliation is likely a more effective way of addressing communal needs and building a holistic, regional peace. However, I have four comments regarding Jackfruity's and Comrade's ideas regarding: the ICC as a player; traditional vs. western justice; lack of UPDF indictments; and what can be done by Ugandans to regain their voice in the process.

1. Comrade and Jackfruity, and many many others, hold an underlying assumption that the ICC is a player like the GoU or LRA. This assumption leads to the common notion that the ICC can simply pull out in the interest of peace, if it so pleased. The issue I take is that this assumption is false. The ICC is *not* another player; rather, it is a legal institution that is bound by a very strict mandate, the Rome Statute, signed by 100+ countries, including Uganda. The ICC, ICC Judges, and Prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo do not have the legal ability to start or stop cases at their whim, as a political institution might (as any government could start a war). The closest the ICC comes to being a political institution is when it is referred to a case through a UN Security Council Resolution (Article 13, as in Darfur), which of course is *not the ICC's decision* but that of political actors. The ICC has very little discretion in how it acts, and in the case of Uganda, it consistently exercised that discretion to provide as much room and backing for the peace process (another discussion we can leave for another time).

It seems to me that it would be more helpful not to question the ICC's motives as a player, but rather to understand its mandate and how to work within it. In other words, how can Uganda utilize the complementarity regime, which states that the ICC complements local systems and only acts when those systems are unwilling or unable to do so? Understand the ICC rules, look for the interests of the actors (GoU, LRA, etc.) then find creative options. There are plenty out there.

2. The larger question question of "traditional" vs. "western" justice is, of course, a major one in an ongoing academic discussion. Practically, though, it is an issue that can be addressed by establishing traditional methods within the legal framework of the state. Again, the ICC is a legally-ratified institution, bound to its mandate. This mandate cuts both ways, of course: if the GoU can legalize and implement genuine national proceedings that utilize traditional justice methods, then the ICC must respect it. The ICC must act upon its mandate as it is a court, not a political player.

3. Jackfruity also commented on the lack of UPDF indictments, something which many cite as evidence of the ICC's bias in favor of the GoU. I disagree with her suggestion that the "government will never give up its precious military men to the ICC." This comment insinuates either a) M7 has a say in who the ICC indicts (patently false) or b) the ICC takes into account the practicality of arrest when making indictments (also false, as shown by indictments against the LRA and the Sudanese official re: Darfur).

Again, I would refer to the Rome Statute, the ICC's mandate, which addresses the crimes within the court's jurisdiction (Article 5). This has consistently been interpreted strictly, that the ICC will only pursue those most responsible for the *gravest* crimes. Essentially, what this means is that the ICC is not pursuing crimes that are really bad, but the worst of the worst. During investigations in Uganda, ICC investigated the claims of UPDF crimes. Their conclusion? UPDF crimes occurred. HOWEVER, both the number and gravity of these crimes paled in comparison to that of the LRA. If the ICC were to indict UPDF for these crimes, they would be setting a very dangerous precedent of significantly lowering the threshold for indictable crimes (and going against the mandate, of course). The ICC was created as a court of last resort to address the gravest crimes, not a court to address all crimes committed. The UPDF undoubtedly committed crimes, and they ought to be brought to justice. However, these crimes are not anywhere near as grave as those committed by the LRA, and the crimes fall outside the legally-binding mandate of the ICC.

4. Finally, a comment about what can be done. Many Ugandans are pissed off, and rightfully so. As the grass beneath two fighting elephants, they are trampled without any say in the process. Without the ability to choose, without the real ability to act, it is easy to feel helpless. The ICC involvement has exacerbated that sentiment, of course, seemingly thrusting itself upon the situation without allowing the people any say in the matter. In other words, many Ugandans feel they have no autonomy, no ability to make decisions about the situation.

So what can be done? I would suggest that Ugandans search for ways to empower their decision-making abilities regarding the situation, to find ways in which they can bolster their voice and power in the decision-making process. One strong option, as I described above, is to utilize the complementarity regime of the ICC. The ICC can only act when the government is unable, or unwilling, to hold genuine national proceedings: this is a three-part test that Ugandans can utilize to bring justice back into their own hands. Create a local framework that a) is genuine, i.e. not a sham; b) the government can undertake; and c) the government *will* undertake. I can envision a special law enacted in Parliament that creates a hybrid framework incorporating traditional and punitive justice. Show it's genuine, show the parties are willing to accept it and go through with it, and the ICC will not have jurisdiction any longer.

You want to regain your decision-making power? Great, it can happen. Understand the rules, understand the interests of the parties involved, and create a system reflects that situation. Then go and do it - I'm all for it!

He's definitely reshaped my ideas about the ICC, as well as given me hope for the peace process.

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june UBHH: fighting with the communist, breakdancing with the blogren

Last week's UBHH was smaller than usual — we were missing several of the usual suspects (Dennis, Kelly and Glenna) — but we had some new faces and a handful of intense conversations.

Revence and I got into another fight, this time about whether Uganda is more democratic than the United States. There are so many problems inherent with such a simplistic question: what is democracy? How do you define democratic? How do you rate the various aspects of democracy, and which ones weigh more than others? Are we talking about the current administrations, or each country's history as a whole? Can you even count Uganda's history as a coherent whole, politically speaking?

I'm not going to rehash our conversation, aside from pointing out that after declaring that he "hated all Americans," Revence promptly granted all Americans present at UBHH honorary Ugandan citizenship to avoid the sticky question of whether or not we could still be friends. I'd just like to direct your attention to this article, which details the recent decision of the High Court in the UK to fine Museveni 60 billion shillings for illegally shutting down a Ugandan newspaper in 1986. It isn't directly related to our discussion about democracy, but I think it's funny.

Petty disagreements aside, I had a great time — so good, in fact, that Dee, Carlo and I decided we couldn't wait until next month to see each other. We're going breakdancing with Breakdance Project Uganda tomorrow afternoon at the Sharing Youth Center in Nsambya. Join us some time after 4:30 and before 8:00 to have my friend Abramz and his fellow breakdance geniuses teach you how to do this:

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peace in northern uganda: five questions

Last Saturday the Uganda Conflict Action Network reported that Vincent Otti, Joseph Kony’s righthand man, has declared that he will turn himself over to the International Criminal Court if it charges the UPDF with crimes against humanity and war crimes. This is the second time this year I’ve found myself wanting to side with the LRA, another reminder that this conflict is vastly more complex than it seems. Last year’s ICC indictments of the top LRA commanders have raised a number of questions:

Should the ICC take precedence over Ugandan governmental and/or traditional justice mechanisms?
I wrote earlier about the problems inherent in using traditional justice to “solve” the conflict in northern Uganda: though Acholi culture provides a number of reconciliation rituals that may be able to heal some of the rifts this war has created, other cultures have also been affected. Many people — the Langi and Iteso, for example — may not feel that Acholi ceremonies are sufficiently punitive to provide justice for the crimes that have been committed against them.

Should the ICC arrest warrants be traded in for a peace agreement?
At the moment, there is only one “way out” of the arrest warrants against Kony, Otti and the two other top commanders: the Ugandan government must prove that handling justice internally will be more beneficial to the Ugandan population than honoring the warrants. Local and international organizations have clamored for the ICC to rescind the warrants if that is what it takes to reach a peace agreement. The court is understandably reluctant, as these are the first warrants they have issued; to void them would set a weak precedent for future action. The LRA has repeatedly used the warrants as a trump card, refusing to allow any progress in the peace talks until they are assured they will not be arrested.

How should the UPDF be held accountable?
I’d like to agree with Otti that the ICC should issue arrest warrants for specific UPDF commanders and try them for crimes against humanity right beside the LRA, but that solution is wishful thinking. The government will never give up its precious military men to the ICC — Museveni’s not exactly jonesing for public disgrace right now (or at any time, really).

Where does that leave the peace process?
The inherent problem here is that the Ugandan government is incapable of meting out justice single-handedly. The widespread accusations and documented incidents of war crimes on the part of the UPDF prevent any peace process spearheaded by the government from appearing legitimate in the eyes of many northern Ugandans. At the same time, a completely external system of justice — trials at the Hague for LRA and UPDF commanders — violates the sovereignty of the Ugandan government.

Traditional justice alone won’t bring peace. The ICC alone won’t bring peace. The government alone won’t bring peace. I’m hoping this is a case of three wrongs making a right. The only end I see to the past twenty years of war is one that blends multiple local views on justice, cooperation with the ICC (this will most likely take the form of an alternative system of justice, developed according to guidelines set by the court and other major international organizations — this way both the court and the government can save face) and a bit of backing down on both the LRA and government sides.

Is that possible?
The skeptic in me says Museveni will never allow the UPDF to be prosecuted, which in my opinion prevents any workable peace agreement. Last week, though, head mediator Riek Machar declared that the peace talks have “reached a point of no return.” His statement is particularly noteworthy given that the current point of discussion in Juba is accountability and reconciliation, the topic which has caused the most trouble in the talks so far.

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saleh: so not on my good side

I haven't been great about updating lately — I've been busy planning the July Student Global Ambassador Immersion and watching The L Word with my housemates. But then Salim Saleh went and gave me the push I needed to start writing again:
State minister for finance Gen. Caleb Akandwanaho [Salim Saleh, brother of President Yoweri Museveni] has lashed out at scholars for failing to invent solutions to eradicate poverty and corruption in Africa.

"We need to blame you the academia for failing to conceptualise our problems and get solutions to our people's problems. You just talk, then write a few sentences and blame everybody else except yourselves," the minister told a three-day conference organised by a network of Black American policy specialists and the Makerere University Business School in Kampala yesterday.

"Uganda: Saleh Attacks Scholars Over Graft Solutions," Alfred Wasike

I have to think about this for a second. Salim Saleh, who has been implicated in scandals in the UPDF and the Uganda Commercial Bank and the DRC, who then went on to become Uganda's Minister of Microfinance thanks to his sweet family connections, is blaming students for corruption in Uganda.

The only way reporters at the New Vision must be able to keep a straight face is the constant threat of firing, arrest and/or deportation, courtesy Robert Kabushenga.

Press freedom, my ass.

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The June Uganda Bloggers Happy Hour will take place on Thursday, June 21 at 6:30 PM at Mateo's. I have a fancy-schmancy new calendar on my computer, so no more mix-ups. Rumor has it there will be more Danes, and I'm looking forward to discussing Idi Amin and catching up on everything I missed while I was up north this week.

By the way, I found beans in Apac this time.

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(belated) kudos

It's a week late, but I wanted to point you all towards David Tumusiime's fantastic article about Ugandan bloggers in Sunday's New Vision. I especially appreciate him quoting my use of the word "flabbergasting."

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GYPA Immersion Program: Youth, Development and Peace-building

I gushed a little bit earlier about the Global Kimeeza II, a program of the Global Youth Partnership for Africa, an organization I've been involved with for a little over a year and a half. GYPA leads regular conferences for American and Ugandan youth leaders that focus on how young people can actively participate in finding solutions to the variety of challenges Africa faces.

I credit GYPA with cementing my interest in development issues as a whole and in Uganda in particular. For this reason, I am crazy excited to announce the first of our two summer immersion programs: Youth, Development & Peace-building.

These immersions are open to Ugandans ages 18-30 who are already involved in community development projects and/or youth leadership initiatives. The programs will take place in Kampala and Gulu, so applicants are encouraged to apply for the location that best suits them. Spots will fill up quickly, so apply soon — applications for the July trip are due no later than Saturday, June 16, 2007.

July Applications


Please feel free to spread the applications around to your friends, colleagues, and anyone else you think may be interested. More information is in the application, but please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have at

July: Youth, Development & Peace-Building

Today Uganda lies at a crossroads. Last fall, peace talks brought about a cessation of hostilities in the 20-year civil war in northern Uganda; now is a critical time to examine the political situation and engage in the processes of reconstruction and reintegration. The end of the conflict brings with it dramatic challenges as well as opportunities. It is clear that youth will continue to be the driving forces behind development and peace-building in this fragile post-conflict environment. The goal of the Immersion is to provide a platform for Americans and Ugandans to explore the important role that youth play in post-conflict Uganda by sharing experiences, ideas, approaches, and strategies.

July's program will provide opportunities for young global leaders to explore topics such as peace-building, poverty alleviation, post-conflict rehabilitation, HIV/AIDS, and gender issues, among others. Participants will meet with political, academic, and cultural experts and engage with local communities in dialogue, cultural exchange, and direct service.

August: Youth, Development & Health

I encourage those who are interested in Public Health issues to consider applying for the August Immersion. Applications will be available next month. Feel free to contact me with any questions in the meantime.

Uganda was one of the first countries in the world to come face-to-face with the devastating impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic; it was also one of the first to respond successfully to control its spread. As a result, Uganda has been heralded as a model across Sub-Saharan Africa. The August Immersion will focus on the following questions: What role did the Government's strategy play in combating HIV/AIDS? How has the international community assisted in Uganda's fight against other dramatic health challenges such as malaria and tuberculosis? What effect does the 20-year civil war in North Uganda have on the various health problems facing the country? What tools do grassroots and civil-society organizations utilize to improve access to health care and treatment? How are women and children affected differently by health crises? What can you do to help?

Participants will also examine many other interrelated issues facing Uganda, such as post-conflict development, poverty alleviation, and democracy-building and will have a unique opportunity to interact with a wide variety of people. The program will include direct service with community-based organizations, international non-governmental organizations, and young leaders from the United States.

Global Youth Partnership for Africa

The Global Youth Partnership for Africa (GYPA), a non-profit organization based in Washington DC and Kampala, Uganda, seeks to fundamentally change the way Americans and Africans engage with and understand each other. GYPA fosters relationships between accomplished and emerging youth leaders in Africa and the United States. The partnerships forged this July and August will promote fresh, pragmatic perspectives on Africa's challenges and encourage participants to work together for innovative, practical solutions.

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GVO: Uganda: political heroes and the challenges of development work

My second piece is up at Global Voices:

Dennis Matanda has long been the devil's advocate of the Ugandan blogosphere, calling for a return to colonialism and raising the possibility of a "violent end" to the current regime. Recently he published the first half of a two-part series on why Idi Amin is the "Greatest Ugandan who ever lived."
read more»

Dennis, Joshi, Moses Odokonyero, Minega, Moments of Pleasure and Star of Bethelehem all feature.

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my take on compulsory HIV testing

This week's BBC Have Your Say focuses on the recent UN position that health clinics in countries with HIV epidemics should test all patients for HIV unless they specifically request not to be tested.

Supporters of the policy say that the vast majority of those infected with HIV/AIDS are unaware of their status and that testing could go far in preventing the spread of the disease.

Opponents say compulsory testing violates the human rights of patients, condemning them to a life of discrimination, and is especially problematic in areas where few can avoid life-extending anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs):

Why should it be compulsory when Africans can not afford the cost of the cure? Let me die in peace instead of being stigmatized to death.
Jonathan Enders, Monrovia

Ostracization of the HIV-positive is an enormous problem in sub-Saharan Africa, largely due to the misunderstanding about how the virus is spread. I would argue, however, that the best way to reduce this isn't to avoid testing but to push for public health education that includes wide-spread sensitization efforts. The same goes for access to ARVs — this month Brazil issued a compulsory license to locally produce efavrienz, an ARV patented by Merck. The license, which overrides patent laws, will save Brazil an estimated $240 million in the next five years and will help the government provide better care for its HIV-positive citizens. Rather than encourage ignorance about HIV status, other countries should seek out similar ways to lower the cost of these drugs.

I fear I'm somewhat of a Utilitarian on this issue: everything for the greater good. I wouldn't wish discrimination on anyone, but I don't think it's fair for a person to avoid testing just because she doesn't want to know her status. The avoidance of stigma isn't worth the lives of her partners and children.



I'm pretty sure that if you looked up "kick ass" in the dictionary, you'd see a picture of Peter Tatchell, who performed a citizen's arrest on Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe in 1999:

The attempted seizure of President Mugabe took place as his motorcade left the St James's Court Hotel in Buckingham Gate, London SW1, where he had been staying during a "private" shopping visit to Britain.

Running out into the road in front of the Presidential motorcade, Tatchell’s three OutRage! colleagues — John Hunt, Alistair Williams and Chris Morris — forced the President's car to stop.

Peter Tatchell ran from behind the President’s halted limousine, opened the rear door and grabbed the President by the arm: "President Mugabe, you are under arrest for torture," Tatchell told the startled President. "Torture is a crime under international law."

Turning to the President's bodyguards, Tatchell said: "Call the police. The President is under arrest on charges of torture."

Despite the arrest's demonstrable legality, which you can read about in Tatchell's press release, it (predictably) failed. Tatchell and two of his fearless comrades were seized by British police and held until Mugabe finished his Christmas shopping.

If you had to perform a citizen's arrest on a world leader, who would you choose?