Holly and I just returned from a public meeting between the citizens of Lira and a delegation from the LRA. As a part of the third agenda item in the Juba peace talks, the Government of Uganda and the LRA have been visiting northern districts to gather opinions of the people affected by this 20 year war. Several weeks ago the government of Uganda held consultations; today it was the LRA’s turn.
There is no statement that can capture the views of affected people. Their questions and statements directed to the delegation ranged from, “How can we be compensated? “Our schools, economy, and social fabric have been destroyed” to “We forgive them, but the ICC [International Criminal Court] should keep the pressure” to “Why do we need the ICC when we have our own court in Kampala?” to “Is Otti [2nd in command of LRA] dead or alive?” to “You have a cell phone and a vehicle, are you going to pay our children’s school fees?” to “How can you come and ask for forgiveness when you are keeping our children in the bush? You should release our children as a sign that you’re serious about reconciliation,” to “If the LRA wants to fight the government then why have they been killing and mutilating citizens?”
The delegation (perhaps strategically) waited until the sun went down to even take these questions/statements and was unable to answer them due to time constraints.
However, the LRA delegation made a clear apology and claimed commitment to reconcile. At one point they equated Joseph Kony with the main character of Jesus’ parable, “The Prodigal Son”, saying, “We have made mistakes, all we want to do is come home and work alongside the workers in the field.” They pleaded with community to be the father in the story, who welcomed his wayward son home.
Naturally, the delegation emphasized the Government’s culpability in the displacement, atrocities and poor governance.