Friday, April 11, 2008

Progress in Uganda?

The New York Times is reporting that Uganda is very close to signing a peace agreement between the government and the rebel Lord's Resistance Army. However, an agreement has seemed to be at hand before, only to collapse or be delayed. The problem this time?
[I]nternational war crimes indictments against [Joseph] Kony and three top commanders. Mr. Kony’s aides have indicated that he will sign the treaty to show he is serious about peace, but the Lord’s Resistance Army will not fully disband until the indictments, issued in 2005 by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, are dropped.
Despite the fact that "many Ugandans have said that they are more eager for lasting peace than international tribunals, and they have been urging the court to cancel the indictments against Mr. Kony," the ICC has, so far, not relented. According to Maria Mabinty Kamara, a public relations officer of the ICC, “The I.C.C.’s position has been over and over again that the indictments stand and they are valid.”

However, there are indications that the ICC may be willing to back away from its position. The Times reports that "judges in The Hague are reviewing the case and recently sent a letter to the Ugandan government asking for more information about the country’s court systems and its capacity to try Mr. Kony." As I discussed when I last wrote about this, the ICC relies on the principle of complementarity, meaning that if the ICC believes, or can convince itself, that Uganda is willing and able to dispense justice, the ICC will step back.

The question is whether the ICC will consider a plan to minimally punish Kony in order to move towards reconciliation to be "adequate justice." Ugandan officials have demonstrated a willingness to come with some kind of arrangement that will allow Kony to escape criminal punishment. According to the Times:
Ruhakana Rugunda, Uganda’s internal affairs minister, said the key to ending the conflict was balancing accountability with reconciliation.

“Our legal system and the traditional system will provide an adequate framework for dealing with impunity and justice and reconciliation,” he said.

While the Times reports that "many Ugandans have said that they are more eager for lasting peace than international tribunals," no numbers or national polling data are presented. Nevertheless, if the Ugandan government can demonstrate that an agreement will lead to a real and lasting peace, the ICC's insistence on criminal punishment should not be an obstacle to ending one of the longest and most brutal wars in the world.

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