On that day five years ago we were traveling to a medical clinic in Dino, a remote village in N.W. Uganda. Many refugees lived in that area. It is in higher country accessed by a very narrow, winding road. Mud was interrupted by pools of dirty water. Beside me sat Solomon—in wrinkled clothes, thin, of medium height with weathered face—not the least imposing in appearance. But he had been instrumental in starting ten refugee clinics in that part of Uganda.
Led by Joseph Kony, the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army) had been formed twenty years before. Their alleged aim was to counter major wrongs being committed by the Ugandan Government. But Kony and his followers forcibly recruited near 20,00 child soldiers. Years of devastation followed. Killings, beatings, rape, destroyed villages and terrible fear ensued. About a million refugees were left in internally displaced people camps.
Solomon told me, “This is where Kony grew up, started gathering child soldiers, and began fighting in 1986. Our Acholi people want him to give up his terrible ways and come home. We want to forgive him.”
He then continued to tell me, “When villages are fighting other villages or tribes, it has been our custom for the chiefs to bring their best spears, put them together, bend the handles and forgive each other. They do this even if there has been much killing. Then peace can return. This is what we want to do with Joseph Kony.”
I further learned that there are two phases in each individual’s forgiveness and atonement monitored by tribal elders. First, the aggressor must give a full description of the crimes committed; second, the aggressor must negotiate regarding compensation as much as possible. One of the LRA’s main sub-leaders had recently gone through this process and was peacefully living back among his Acholi people.
What do you think?
Contributed by Ken Magee, Klamath Falls