Wednesday, December 6, 2006
From allAfrica.com: Ghana CrimProf Henrietta Mensa-Monsu discusses how a Commission on Truth and Reconciliation may help victims of conflicts in regions of Africa find justice.
The conflict in northern Uganda region has displaced over 1.7 million people now living in squalid conditions in internally displaced peoples camps. Gross human rights abuses including raping of women, brutally mutilating innocent civilians and forcefully conscripting children into rebel ranks has also characterised the 20-year long insurgency which has also left hundreds of innocent civilians dead.
Recently, peace talks between the government and the Lord's Resistance Army rebels started in the South Sudan capital of Juba, which is the most significant initiative for peace the region has seen for 20 years.
The war-affected community welcomed the talks and is willing to reconcile with their tormentors for the sake of peace. However, experts believe a comprehensive peace where communities will have to reconcile with each other is one way of addressing years of horrific suffering and human rights abuses. The government has also indicated its readiness to plan a process of national reconciliation.
According to Ms Henrietta Mensa-Monsu, a professor of criminal law in Ghana and a former commissioner on the Liberian Commission on Truth and Reconciliation, having a Truth and Reconciliation Commission would help victims seek justice and perpetrators take responsibility for their actions.
"It demands telling the truth and admitting mistakes. This is how people can reconcile with each other," she says.
But Prof. Makau Mutua, the chairperson of Kenya's Human Rights Commission in a paper presented by Gulu district chairman Nobert Mao said national reconstruction and reconciliation is not possible without truth and justice.
"It is my view that Uganda should first address its past and present crisis. This is the only route by which the current abominations that the LRA rebels have waged in the north can be permanently terminated," he says.
"That is why there is no model truth commission or peace process any where that Uganda can copy. Having had a truth commission already, Uganda needs to look beyond such an institution and think about a holistic approach to peace and reconciliation. Even if a truth commission was to be established, it would have to go beyond the narrow confines of violations of human rights."
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]