At last month’s Uganda Bloggers Happy Hour, I took an informal poll of why the blogren do what they do. My favorite response came from Carlo, who said that blogging is “just like Facebook,” the social networking site that’s currently sweeping the young, internet-connected world. Every blogger present declared blogging in Uganda to be a purely social exercise, evidenced by the recent “8 Random Things” meme circulating among Ivan, Magoola, Magintu and others.
Perhaps that’s why hardly anyone has mentioned last week’s one-year anniversary of the beginning of the peace talks between the Government of Uganda and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a “sadistic rebel militia which ha[s] made a hell out of the north of the country for two decades.” Those who are writing — mainly expatriates living in Uganda and activists in the United States — are expressing cautious hope for the success of the talks.
The major obstacle to peace over the last year has been the tension between restorative and retributive justice, recently examined by Nora Boustany in the Washington Post. A restorative approach would include traditional reconciliation rituals such as the mato oput ceremony, described by Glenna Gordon:
People in Uganda's north would prefer “mato oput”, a form of traditional justice, which literally means to drink a bitter potion made from the oput tree….
Mato oput could solve the problem for them, but the government isn't ready to concede to such a bitter solution.
Retributive justice would most likely mean trials for top LRA commanders at the International Criminal Court, an approach that has met with serious resistance not only from the LRA itself but also from many northern Ugandans. Willy Akena of the Diocese of Northern Uganda writes:
One year down the road, the major question is the ICC. While many people in the north think the ICC is a stumbling block to the peace process, the ICC prosecutor Louis Ocampo thinks that is what Kony wants people to believe. And the prosecutor thinks Kony will get a fair trial in the court.
The Diocese blog also features an excellent chronology of the talks.
Finally, just outside of Gulu, northern Uganda, Locus Amoenus reflects on the effects the talks have had on life in the many camps for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs):
On the ground, this translates into another notch of success in strengthening the fragile sense of security in the region. After a decade of life in the camps, IDPs are going home. At Paicho, this means that during the day adults and older children are traveling to their ancestral lands to begin digging and planting – a return to the rich agricultural tradition of Acholiland, and a hopeful sign for a people beginning to feed themselves. The signal of a future step away from the packs from UN World Food Program. It truly is a sign of hope, albeit a mixed one for the children back at Paicho, who are unsupervised until about 2 p.m., when the adults typically return from tilling the land. Another fold in the ever-complex issue of achieving peace and development in this region.