[Michael A. Newton is Professor of the Practice of Law, Vanderbilt University Law School]
The Kony 2012 campaign had the laudable goal of increasing public awareness in order to aid the search for justice and accountability in the wake of LRA atrocities. In fact, the worldwide attention had the paradoxical effect of demonstrating the lamentable reality that the optimal pathway towards authentic justice for LRA victims in that setting is neither simple nor self-obvious. This is true for a number of reasons which I shall summarize.
Firstly, the complexity of factors in Uganda and the overriding imperative for ending two decades of disastrous conflicts have led to an artificial dichotomy in debates between the poles of peace versus justice, local versus international responses to atrocities, and the population’s desire for forgiveness and reconciliation versus punishment. These artificial polarizations have clouded debates about the most appropriate ways to address conflict and its aftermath, implying either/or choices when combinations of these elements often better reflect popular perceptions and lead to more effective practical strategies. The creation of a modern holistic system of accountability for international crimes should, as framed by the aspiration of a leading Ugandan lawyer, serve as the interface of the ICC and domestic processes that “link together in an inseparable synergy the restorative/traditional, official and international justice mechanisms.”
In other words, an authentic sense of justice that benefits from a sense of local level ownership is actually a mosaic of prosecutions, accountability, reconciliation, reparations, institutional reform, reintegration, truth-telling, and (it must be also be emphasized) retribution against those recalcitrant leaders that do not want to share a revitalized sense of community peace and stability. The precise contours of these linkages remain under debate in Uganda, and victims groups tell me that their most pressing needs revolve around psychosocial counseling and educational/behavioral deficits. I shall leave discussion of the traditional tribal methods used in Uganda for another posting, but vast numbers of former child soldiers have been…