Tour - Uganda
It may not be a commonly shared view by all Ugandans that of all the military and civil transitions that Uganda has witnessed, the recent move from movementism to multipartism can be dubbed as a relatively smooth transition. Much as we generally agree that there are many issues that need to be considered in understanding the causes of conflicts in Uganda and thus reconciliation initiatives, it would be naïve to argue that there is only one prescribed remedy for Uganda's problems. Ugandan society is not homogeneous and therefore no set interventions can just be applicable without taking cognizance of the underlying sources of conflict and key players. These, include among others family dislocations, community divisions along tribal and ethnic differences and national concoctions of political disharmony and developmental imbalances. Consequently, these issues have marred Uganda's complete transition to date. Hence, an integral and sustainable approach that incorporates all the possible interventions would need to be employed.
TRCs - An "obvious" redress mechanism? One should caution that Truth and Reconciliation Commissions (TRCs) as instruments of justice mechanisms are not always the prescribed solution towards ending past injustices. Most of Uganda's present challenges are part of and exacerbated by developmental deficits. It is possible to pin that to the conflicts and instabilities that were repercussions of past regime changes. Therefore, is TRC type intervention a plausible answer? Although many might tend to think in the affirmative, I would like to think that we need to think beyond the obvious rhetoric. Comparatively, the popular South African TRC had its own successes but it was not the only solution for the issues in the country. Its successes to date are yet to be or still measured against the implementation and effectiveness of various redress mechanisms undertaken by the incumbent government e.g. Black Economic Empowerment Initiatives, Affirmative Actions, Social and Economic Reforms etc. These were deliberate policies that the government undertook in efforts to address the past injustice against the black population in order for the country to move into a democratic dispensation. This is because national reconciliation is not a one-time event but a perennial process based on reflective consequences.
An Integrated and Sustainable Programme - how feasible? Certainly for the Ugandan situation, there is a need to look at a tailor-made solution that will be able to not only look into the past but one that will put more emphasis on the present and future contextual dispensations. That tailor-made solution should be in the form of an Integrated National Reconciliation Programme (INRP) which aims to consolidate and support initiatives that aim to take Uganda on a reconciliation path. The Programme being a Master Plan on National Reconciliation should adopt a developmental approach to Uganda's reconciliation and nation-building process. This programme should encompass a viable strategy that takes account of existing initiatives and particularly those that would harmonise disparities in policy formulations and implementations e.g. poverty eradication, skills based education, job creations, human rights, equal distribution of primary services and economic empowerment initiatives. There is a need for coherence and consistency in developing such a programme. This should be in such a way that every government strategic focus and implementation on reconciliation should be guided by the vision and objectives of the INRP which clearly stipulates past conflict fault-lines and their present and future redress mechanisms that is comprehensive and deliberate in affording every Ugandan a sense of ownership, security and belonging.
Peace Process: Mending the Loophole A lasting peace from the conflict in Northern Uganda is seen as the missing puzzle piece in the quest for national reconciliation in Uganda. Several research undertakings on reconciliation including the recent one by Makerere M.A. Peace and Conflict Studies on behalf the Coalition for National Reconciliation in Uganda (CONAR - U) continue to reveal that there is a need for national reconciliation in order to restore the societal moral and social fabrics that have been dented and fractured by the past. This should include among others participation and inclusivity, nation building, equal opportunity for all and better life for all Ugandans irrespective of tribe, ethnicity, religion or political affiliation.
As peace talks under the rubric of the Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS) mediated by Dr Riek Machar progresses speculations and anxieties especially from those directly and indirectly affected by the situation in Northern Uganda are increasing. However, the end of the 20-year conflict is not and should not be treated as an isolated matter divorced from the national societal dynamics that resulted from the pre and post colonial endurances. It is the past that always brings a nation to the present. Hence, peace should not be interpreted to mean reconciliation. Therefore, the present situation, with its past defects, should help us pave way for the country's future based on a sustainable integrated programme for national reconciliation.