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UC Berkeley Press Release

mural of Ugandan village This mural is painted on a wall of the World Vision reception center in Gulu, Uganda, which assists children and teenagers who were abducted and recruited into the Lord's Resistance Army, a rebel military force in Uganda that has been fighting against Ugandan government forces since 1987.

Ugandans want peace more than revenge against warlords

– War-fatigued Ugandans would rather live in peace than retaliate against leaders of the Lord's Resistance Army, a rebel group that forcibly conscripted tens of thousands of women and children, according to a survey released this week by human rights and international development researchers. The survey found, however, that many Ugandans still want the warlords held accountable for atrocities.

The population-based survey was conducted in northern Uganda by researchers from University of California, Berkeley's Human Rights Center, Tulane University's Payson Center for International Development and the International Center for Transitional Justice, an organization that seeks accountability for human rights abuses and atrocities. The survey, "When the War Ends," gauges attitudes about peace, justice and social reconstruction in northern Uganda.

"As the peace process proceeds, the government of Uganda and the international community should heed the priorities expressed by those most affected by the conflict," said Eric Stover, faculty director of UC Berkeley's Human Rights Center and a co-author of the report.

"Victim-oriented measures should be more central in the ongoing debates of justice," said study co-author Phuong Pham, assistant professor at Tulane's Payson Center for International Development and a fellow at UC Berkeley's Human Rights Center.

Since 1987, Ugandan government forces have been at war with the Lord's Resistance Army. Both sides are now negotiating a cease-fire. The International Criminal Court, a permanent tribunal that prosecutes individuals for war crimes and handles situations referred to it by the United Nations Security Council or sovereign governments, issued warrants against Lord's Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony, who is a self-proclaimed spirit medium, and four other commanders.

In June, a group made up of faculty and researchers from UC Berkeley and Tulane University issued a report about forced conscription in northern Uganda that was made available to the court's Office of the Prosecutor in the event that Lord's Resistance Army rebel leaders are brought to trial.
The effort was part of the Berkeley-Tulane Initiative for Vulnerable Populations.

More than 2,800 adults in camps, villages and towns in eight northern Ugandan districts were interviewed for the survey in April, May and June this year. A majority of those surveyed expressed confidence that peace is possible in northern Uganda. Respondents overwhelmingly listed their main priorities as peace, children's education, health care and livelihood.

Moreover, compared to findings from a similar survey two years ago, Ugandans are now more prepared to consider amnesty, especially for rank-and-file members of the rebel army and conscripted civilians. While more than two-thirds of those surveyed said they want to see the warlords held accountable and 90 percent want a truth commission formed to investigate war crimes, most respondents favor amnesty for perpetrators of atrocities and other abuses for the sake of peace.

"Physical peace may exist at present in northern Uganda, but much remains to be done to rebuild social infrastructures and livelihoods," said Patrick Vinck, director of the Berkeley-Tulane Initiative for Vulnerable Populations and a co-author of the study.