Photo by K. Burns [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
A few nights ago I came across this article from Acholitimes about a male survivor of rape from northern Uganda.
Mzee Okidi had told journalists about the heart wrenching experiences of male rape at the hands of Ugandan army then called National Resistance Army (NRA). As it happens often on the internet streets, an earlier published article could bring about a conversation as if it is new especially for many issues that remain unresolved or unattended to. Male rape has been documented in the northern Uganda conflict but not seen not much done beyond efforts of organisations like the Law Refugee Project.
I am told Mzee Okidi featured in the documentary above (in red shirt) and he die last year but his story and those of many others in silence is a vital conversation and even now that the ICC just read former child soldier andLRA top commander Ongwen 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity include murder, persecution, torture, pillaging, conscription of child soldiers, and sexual and gender-based crimes, which he allegedly committed between 2003 and 2005 in the internally displaced camps of Lukodi, Pajule, Abok and Odek in the north. Here is the conversation.
The question of justice at home is the biggest. Yes Ongwen’s trial is key and but for most survivors like Okidi, a trial of one side of the conflict will not bring him peace and justice. Many of the crimes committed before the ICC came into force and especially those by NRA (later called UPDF) have remained unaddressed. Uganda government is still yet to deliver on reconciliation, reparations and real tangible reconstruction and healing of the survivors of the conflict in northern Uganda.
Here is an excerpt form my recent article about Ongwen’s trial and justice in northern Uganda written for JIC. More here
For the people of northern Uganda, the charge of forced marriage will be of particular significance. The Rome Statute doesn’t cover it as a crime but the prosecutor has charged it as cruel inhuman treatment. Through the prosecution of forced marriage, the sexual crimes against many women who were abducted and given as rewards for men fighting will uniquely bring out the plight of women during this war. The trial will also have to dig deeper into how one transitions from victim to perpetrator and how capable one can be, if abducted, in forming the necessary intent to commit the crimes Ongwen is charged with. The trial in general will hopefully highlight the complexity of the 20-plus year war where the lines between victim and perpetrator are sometimes blurred.
Many also hope that Ongwen’s ICC appearance and his possible trial will move the Government and other actors to finally tend to the real needs of the communities on the ground who still have no reparations programs nor reconciliation and truth-seeking processes.