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The retired Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu and South African social rights activist has called upon the Ugandan government and war victims to understand their past.

The Outspoken Desmond Tutu
The Outspoken Desmond Tutu

Speaking via a video link to war victims at the National war victims’ conference in Kampala,

Archbishop Desmond Tutu argued that, while transitional justice promises a better future, there is need to understand the past. He took note of Uganda’s pre and post-Independence, which has been marked by intermittent civil disagreements, skirmishes and war.

Archbishop Tutu stressed that forgiveness and peace can only come about if people are willing to tell the truth about past atrocities.

He added that conflict is a much broader term than the sound of gunfire and bombs, since it begins in the mind of the people.

He cited the decision by the South African government to set up a truth and reconciliation commission as a mechanism to overcome the apartheid horrors. In the meetings victims and perpetrators of human rights violations were invited to tell their stories on public platforms with perpetrators being granted amnesty in exchange for telling the truth. Archbishop Tutu described the moment as grueling though both parties experienced liberation and healing.

He also urged youth born into conflict to be peaceful saying there is hope that through their leadership abilities to bridge the past they shall achieve prosperity. However, in an interview with URN on the sidelines of the conference Colonel Felix Kulaigye, the UPDF Chief Political Commissar insisted the truth telling process may not bring out the whole truth.

He also said Uganda cannot compare itself with the South African apartheid truth and reconciliation commission.

A 2012/2013 research conducted by Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium in Acholi and Lango sub regions, shows that five percent of the populations are significantly impaired. They are also incapacitated by physical, psychological and emotional injuries caused by war. the reports notes that households with wounded members are more likely to have fewer assets, worse food security, fewer livelihood activities and use more coping strategies to survive.

The research also found that the more serious crimes a person experiences, the more likely they are to have an ongoing injury that impacts their ability to function today.

Government is currently working on a traditional justice and truth telling policy whose goal is to enhance legal and political accountability for gross human rights abuses and violations. The policy seeks to promote reconciliation, foster social reintegration and contribute to peace and security.