By Brian Kisomose
Recently and still fresh in our minds is the tensions and instabilities in the western districts of Kasese, Bundibugyo and Ntoroko.
Security forces have linked the attacks to ethnic tensions among the Bakonzo, Bamba, Basongora and Banyabindi ethnic groups as a result, the army spokesperson Lt. Col Paddy Ankunda has announced amnesty to the perpetrators yet currently Uganda does not have a model Amnesty law that is exhaustive in nature following the expiration of the same in May 2012 as per the Amnesty law (2000)issues paper review by the transition of justice working group of April 2012 supported by JLOS.
Amnesty refers to a pardon, forgiveness, exemption or discharge from criminal prosecution or any form of punishment by the state as per section 1 of the Amnesty Act 2000.In as much as I would stand for national peace, stability and security the same should not be considered an exercise in futility because one of the contentious issues of this law is the fact that amnesty that is envisaged by this legislation is unconditional and to make matters worse the army spokesperson extended the same which in my view I strongly condemn.
Unconditional Amnesty is very controversial in a sense that, it does not require truth-telling and it is not yet clear as to whether or not the same is going to be extended even to suspects who have already been captured and if not, then it is going to raise constitutional issues as to whether or not equality before the law has been violated of which to date the court has not yet pronounced its position as per Koyelo’s case that is still pending determination.
The fact that victim/survivors ‘communities have not been involved in awarding amnesty yet they believe that proper reintegration requires forgiveness at community level ,Then failure to involve them is most likely to result into hostilities towards perpetrators of horrendous crimes against the masses especially those who have already been identified as suspects. This heavily impacts to the issue of reintegration because in most cases reporters are back in their communities yet meaningfully reintegration has not occurred.
The purported amnesty is silent when it comes to the criteria for renewal. All these controversial issues have arisen because Amnesty is currently operating in a vacuum without clear legal basis. The amnesty law should not be portrayed as’ legislation for Northern Uganda’ due to the historical turmoil that was caused by the Lord’s Resistance Army but should be perceived as legislation that Uganda as a state needs. We must admit that it is indispensable and we should not wait for the occurrence of an eventuality so as to purport to implement a legislation we practically do not have.
It is of great importance that government together with other stake holders expedite enactment of a model law that will promote the principles of justice and accountability, respect for human rights and provide adequate redress and reparations to victims. It is against this background that I strongly recommend that the law be reviewed and if amended it should specifically be comprehensive when it comes to promotion of justice and accountability, Amnesty should be conditional and only granted to those who voluntarily surrender, not those captured and those responsible for the commission of atrocious crimes.
The Amnesty commission should be re-configured to include civil society organizations, victims/survoivours, religious and cultural leaders.
The power of other state players should not be under estimated by the government. It should support stake holders that have embarked on the process of enacting a new model amnesty law thus; it should unreservedly offer its support so as to expedite the process. It is no doubt that the Amnesty law in its current form is ‘blanket’ and poses conflict of a legal nature that will continue to manifest over and over again if not rectified when we still can. For the sake of national security and peace of this country and looking forward to resolving conflict in a non coercive way, having a modified Amnesty law in place is a better option worth considering.
The writer is from Makerere University School of Law
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Enactment of a amnesty law in Uganda is long overdue