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Wednesday,August 05,2020 14:02 PM

Do Rebels Still Need The Amnesty?

By Vision Reporter

Added 30th September 2003 03:00 AM

On September 17, President Yoweri Museveni said the Government would not renew the amnesty for rebels when it expires in December this year.

On September 17, President Yoweri Museveni said the Government would not renew the amnesty for rebels when it expires in December this year.

By Asuman Bisiika
On September 17, President Yoweri Museveni said the Government would not renew the amnesty for rebels when it expires in December this year.
He said Joseph Kony, Tabuley and Vincent Otti, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) ringleaders would not benefit from any amnesty and that an international warrant of arrest would soon be issued.
The Amnesty Act 2000, provides that the amnesty “will remain in force for a period not exceeding six months and on expiry the minister of Internal Affairs may by statutory instrument, extend that period.”
Since the enactment in 2000, the duration of the amnesty has been renewed every six months expiring on January 17, 2004.
The Act provides that “all Ugandans who abandon acts of a war-like nature against the Government would be exempted from prosecution and any other punishment for crimes they may have committed in the cause of the war or armed rebellion.” But President Museveni seems to have a point when he says that there should be no renewal after January 17, particularly for the ringleaders of the rebellion. Although the letter and spirit of the Amnesty Act 2000 was intended to entice the top leaders of the rebellion to abandon war, there is an increasing feeling that LRA leaders will not abandon rebellion. Indeed as if to vindicate Museveni’s remarks, a senior commander of the LRA was recently quoted as saying the rebel leaders were not interested in the amnesty. Twice the Government has unsuccessfully made peace overtures to the LRA. This has led to frustration. President Museveni’s angry remarks should therefore be understood as being born out of this feeling of frustration.
However, his remarks about not extending the amnesty may be interpreted as meaning that he is no longer interested in a peaceful resolution to the conflict. The peace lobby will argue that the offer of amnesty would give the rebels the confidence to engage in a process to end the rebellion. Testimonies from captured rebels (and from those who surrender) show that fear of prosecution is one of the factors which make rebels reluctant to abandon war.
Reagan Okumu, the MP for Aswa County, Gulu, said that not to offer amnesty to the ringleaders defeats the meaning of the whole amnesty process. “My opinion is that even the leaders should be forgiven when they put down their arms. If they do not have recourse to amnesty, it would make them tighten their grip on the rank and file of the rebel army and consequently escalate the conflict. It is not that we are abetting crime, but we are only trying to resolve a desperate situation with a desperate solution,” he said.
But should the amnesty remain open to people who do not seem to be interested in it?
A European diplomat said that the international community was interested in seeing the end of the conflict by any means. “Museveni’s remarks would have to be made into policy to befit any comment from the diplomatic corps. Besides, I do not think the President said he would not extend the amnesty. I think he said that a certain group of people would not be covered under the terms of the amnesty. My personal view is that the amnesty is still relevant to the Ugandan situation. The spirit of forgiveness should always be there as a principle of charity,” said the diplomat.
Justice Onegi Obel, Chairman of the Amnesty Commission, did not want to commit himself. He, however, said if the amnesty is not extended, his Commission would cease to exist. “The Commission draws its life from handling the process of giving amnesty to people who abandon rebellion. So, if the amnesty is not extended, the Commission would not have the justification to exist,” he said.
Major Shaban Bantariza, the UPDF spokesman said the extension of the amnesty after expiry in December is a political decision to which the UPDF would have minimal or no input. “But you should also know that this amnesty offer has been here for long but the people for whom it was established do not seem to be interested in it. Otherwise the UPDF’s job is to fight the rebels and we are doing well on that front,” Bantariza said.
Jacob Oulanya, MP Omoro said the amnesty would be renewed. “The President did not say he would not extend the amnesty. He only said the ringleaders of the LRA rebellion would not be covered by the amnesty anymore.” Asked whether blacklisting LRA leaders would not affect the Government’s peace initiatives, Oulanya said the peace process and the issue of amnesty are not connected. “Amnesty covers rebels who surrender while the peaceful resolution of the conflict would be negotiated by supposedly two equal belligerents,” he said.
Ends

Do Rebels Still Need The Amnesty?

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