Paicho Journal: Sowing Peanuts, Reaping Ammo in Uganda


His memories of that time are strong. And these days they are coming back again as he works with other local farmers who are providing food for yet another group of war victims — a huge influx of South Sudan refugees pouring in to northern Uganda, fleeing war in their home country.

“We were in camps, so we know what life is like there,” Mr. Ogik said, describing the affinity he feels for the refugees living in camps dotted throughout northern Uganda.

The harvest had just passed, and, weeks earlier, Mr. Ogik, along with an association of local farmers, had sold his crop of maize to the World Food Program. The grains will be used to feed some of the 1.1 million South Sudanese living as refugees in the nearby camps.

Uganda’s new refugee population is one of the largest in the world — driven by conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo, to the west, as well as South Sudan, to the north.

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Patrick Ogik plows his field near the remnants of former army barracks in Uganda.

Credit
Megan Specia/The New York Times

The region has been relatively peaceful since 2009, when the military drove the L.R.A. out of Uganda, but the deep scars — both physical and mental — have proved difficult to heal.

And the process of rebuilding has stalled as the government struggles to roll out a comprehensive national program for justice and reconciliation.

Paicho is among the places that were hit especially hard by the conflict, said Okwir Isaac Odiya, a leader of The Justice and Reconciliation Project, a nongovernmental organization that pushes for justice for victims of war crimes, and tries to foster reconciliation in Northern Uganda.

“There is interfamily and intercommunity tensions as one family blames another for their son killing the other’s son or daughter,” Mr. Odiya said.

Rights groups documented violations on both sides of the conflict. In the barracks at Mr. Ogik’s farm, for example, dozens of prisoners, including some members of the local community, were tortured, according to reports by Amnesty International and other groups.

And many of the leaders responsible for the wartime atrocities have yet to be held accountable. In 2015, Dominic Ongwen, a former L.R.A. commander, became the first member of the rebel group to go before the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Mr. Kony is still on the run.

The Justice Law and Order Sector, a government body, established a policymaking wing in 2008 to write a national law on transitional justice for Uganda after the war. The group has presented several drafts to the government, but legislation has yet to pass.

The latest draft calls for formal criminal prosecutions, truth-telling and reconciliation programs, reparations payments and amnesty programs.

“The lack of political will, that’s the reason why this is taking so long,” said Mr. Odiya of the reconciliation project. “It’s now coming to 10 years that the policy is being drafted. For how long will we wait for the transitional justice to come to Uganda?”

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