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Peace First, Justice Later: Traditional Justice in Northern Uganda

Hovil, Lucy
June 4, 2015

Source: (2005) Refugee Law Project Working Paper No. 17. Kampala, Uganda: Refugee Law Project

The following report seeks to engage in the current debate on issues of post-conflict
reconstruction and appropriate mechanisms of justice within northern Uganda. It
begins by outlining both the goals of any reconstruction phase, as well as defining the
two words, peace and justice. It then argues that there is a clear order in which they
should happen: peace needs to be secured before justice can be decided upon and
carried out. This sequencing explains, in part, the apparent contradictions that
emerged both between different individuals, and within the same interview: the
separating out of restorative and retributive aspects of justice is seen to be false.
It therefore considers the current and potential role of traditional, or localised,
mechanisms of justice within the conflict zone and in any future period of transition.
While findings indicate that many individuals still recognise the relevance of such
mechanisms, they are currently seen to have future rather than current value: there
was consensus that many of the values and processes underpinning traditional
mechanisms have been displaced along with the people of the conflict-affected area.
That said, many are of the opinion that they should play a significant role in any postconflict
The report is based on field research conducted in October and November 2004, and
March 2005, predominantly in the northern districts of Gulu, Kitgum and Pader. A
total of 109 interviews were conduced with a wide spectrum of individuals, including
local government officials, religious and cultural leaders and, most importantly,
civilians currently living in the IDP camps. (Author’s abstract)


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