Kony family hit back at US NGO ‘forcing’ reconciliation

Posted on March 28, 2012

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The family of Joseph Kony has hit back against attempts by an US NGO to force their clan to atone for the crimes the star of Invisible Children campaign.

According to a report in the Acholi Times, Kony’s uncles have demanded answers as to why their family was being forced to undergo a reconciliation ceremony.

“My clan of Palaro and Lamara or Kal shall never participate in this ceremony because there was no war between us, it was between the government of Uganda and LRA rebels who were engaged in rebellion, not us,” said Saverino Odoki, Kony’s uncle and head of the Palaro clan.

According to Acholi Times, the US NGO that has been pressuring the is the Starkey Foundation. If this information is correct then it’s interesting to note that this is the same organisation that Amazing Race producer Jeff Rice, who died in suspicious drug related circumstances in a Ugandan hotel in February, was working with.

“Mato Oput” is one of the many forms indigenous forms of peace building that have been championed in Africa.

This Acholi method of peace, conflict resolution and reconciliation is co-operative and can be indirect and circumstantial, effectively encouraging the accused to admit responsibility (Lanek, 1999).

The “Mato Oput” is so called because it ends in a significant ceremony of “Mato Oput”, the traditional drinking of a bitter herb of the Oput tree (Brock-Utne, 2001).

Many academics and media practitioners alike have embraced this indigenous approach, claiming that the bitter drink “may have the ingredients for peace”.

As Tim Allen writes:

A surprising number of people working with NGOs, the Christian churches and local human rights groups maintained that mato oput would play a key role in any peace deal. Funds had been made available to support mato oput rituals, and a council of ‘traditional chiefs’ or rwodi was created to perform them. The person selected to be the ‘traditional’ Acholi paramount chief was going to lead big mato oput ceremonies, at which even the LRA senior commanders could be accepted back into society.

A host of new supporters entered the arena of Acholi traditional justice, viewing it as more acceptable than the imposition of criminal prosecution based on trials in a faraway country. By mid-2005, mato oput ceremonies were being performed regularly, often attended by a host of aid workers, activists and journalists. The Acholi paramount chief had also started performing large-scale rituals. Remarkable claims were made about the effectiveness of these activities, many of which were interpreted unquestioningly and discussed in the international media.

Allen concludes that the Acholi, who have been caricatured through the post-colonial discourse as violent and primitive, are seen as being best left to their own, uncivilised devices. It’s a cop-out for me to conclude in such a manner after raising so many issues but clearly this is a complex issue which deserves further analysis and attention.

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Posted in: Development, Uganda