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Uganda is not Ready for Meaningful Transitional Justice Process

Failed Elections  

Following a largely unsuccessful election in Uganda that led to the dubious 'win' by the incumbent Yoweri Museveni, the political opposition has been calling on defiance. The key opposition leader, Dr. Kizza Besigye has since remained in captivity in his house but also has suffered numerous arrests and even injury since February's (s)elections. Dr. Besigye was therefore unable to file an election petition to challenge the (s)election of Museveni instead there is a petition filed by Amama Mbabazi who came a distant third in Uganda's sham poll. 

Is it Time for Transitional Justice? 

Some pundits have since argued that it is time for Uganda to have a national conversation on truth telling, in other words an initiation of transitional justice process. I know the debate on transitional justice in Uganda  started long time right from the Juba talks but no meangful transitional justice process has ever taken off. There is reason why transitional justice has failed to take off in Uganda. In my informed opinion, this is a good conversation but am afraid the timing is yet again wrong. While there are those who genuinely think that the just concluded failed elections could be a transitional window for Uganda to put in place a robust transitional justice process, I think it isn't. 

What Transitional Justice Entails

Transitional justice consists of both judicial and non-judicial mechanisms, including prosecutions, facilitating initiatives in respect of the right to truth, delivering reparations, institutional reform and national consultations. Whatever combination is chosen must be in conformity with international legal standards and obligations. Transitional justice mechanisms aim at addressing the past, ensuring justice for the victims, psychosocial repair, physical reconstruction and assurance of non-recurrence of the past painful experiences of human rights violations and various forms of atrocities and injustices.

According to the UN, transitional justice is the full range of processes and mechanisms associated with a society’s attempt to come to terms with a legacy of large-scale past abuses, in order to ensure accountability, serve justice and achieve reconciliation. The notion of transition connotes a fundamental shift in governance. This shift could be from autocracy to democracy; from military rule to civilian rule or from accumulated injustices to democratic stability. In any of these shifts, the centrality of democracy is underscored meaning that transition profoundly entails a democratisation process that requires fundamental institutional change.

Uganda is not Ripe Yet

Given the foregoing argument it is valid to argue that Uganda is simply not ready for any meaningful transitional justice process. The very factors that have hindered Uganda's transitional  justice process since the Juba talks remain intact. In as far as the Museveni led NRM is in control of state power in Uganda, there can be no meaningful transitional justice process can effectively take place in the country. Weak or lack of democratic infrastructure and institutions is a major cause for state failure to prevent human rights violations in the first instance and secondly, and more importantly, the reason for the use of state power, especially security agents, to perpetrate human rights violations. In order to rectify this, there is need for strong democratic institutions to facilitate the movement from instability to that of stability; from human rights violations to upholding of such rights. Such democratic infrastructure is still lacking in current Uganda.

Lessons from the Neighbours

Experience elsewhere indicate how difficult it is to attempt addressing the past and ensuring peace with justice and truth where there even mere tenets of regime continuity. Kenya is a good example of how remnants of past regimes can frustrate transitional justice process. Situations where transitional justice processes have been successful especially in Latin American countries demonstrate a clear break with the past. There was a clear end to military juntas and the setting in of democratic dispensations through what Samuel Huntington calls the 'third wave of democratisation.' That has not happened in countries like Kenya hence failure of practically all transitional justice mechanisms. In Uganda the situation is even worse since it is not about mere tenets of regime perpetuity but rather full power retention by the NRM regime which is partly to blame for gross injustices and human rights violations in the country. The current crisis in Uganda doesn't therefore in my verily informed opinion present Uganda with a window for transitional justice since the NRM machine will mutilate the process at every possible stage including its inception.

Uganda is not Ready for Meaningful Transitional Justice Process Uganda is not Ready for Meaningful Transitional Justice Process Reviewed by Ibrahim Magara on March 08, 2016 Rating: 5

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