International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

The Haunting of Alice

This is a little bit of a deviation from my normal posts, but one of the readings I was doing today to review for the final – The Haunting of Alice – really struck a chord with me. I’m doing my research paper on traditional justice in Uganda (obviously a bit more specific than that, but we don’t need to go into details), and this is reading is one of the ones that really inspired me to investigate further. 

This article presents both sides of the traditional justice argument, and really made me think about whether or not mato oput would work in this large scale case of violence. The LRA has not only killed, but they have also committed acts of sexual violence against women, children, and men. Mato oput is designed to only address murder – so then what? What about the other victims? It’s a tricky concept, at least for me. I firmly believe in traditional justice in most cases, with the ICC as the last resort (unless that’s what the victims want), but this is a difficult situation. 

What do you guys think?

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3 responses to “The Haunting of Alice

  1. mbaglane April 29, 2012 at 4:39 pm

    After reading the article on women and reparations I definitely feel as if there needs to be a way to handle cases of sexual violence in Uganda. Another thing to consider is that even if another initiative was created to talk about sexual violence, it would mostly likely play second fiddle to mato oput. It seems as if right now the most idea situation would be to somehow include sexual violence in mato oput in a way that does not subjugate as a “less than” crime. Though it is not the be all end all, visibility and acknowledgment of a crime as a crime is a very important part of healing and establishing right as citizens. Uganda has such an interesting outlook on reparations and how to heal, I would think that eventually crimes of sexual violence will be given more visibility and hopefully in a way that does not make it seem less important than crimes traditionally dealt with through mato oput.

  2. wfstates April 30, 2012 at 7:48 pm

    Hey I too just finished re-reading the article and several points struck me as well:
    First of all I think its very striking that the Acholi community appealed for a blanket amnesty in hope that peace would return to Uganda and the surrounding area. This situation presents a serious conflict for the international community and the ICC, Baines highlights that “Ocampo attempted to accommodate local needs and interest, while at the same time fulfilling the ICC’s commitment to uphold international law” What should be the response of the international community when a local community believes that international prosecution of top LRA members would result in instability? I also believe that this presents an impunity problem, if leaders of crimes against humanity can successfully convince their communities that international intervention will undermine stability, then will their victims receive justice? Will these leaders ever be accountable for their crimes?

    Secondly addressing mato oput process, it seems that its helpful in promoting reconciliation6 between two clans, but in the case of the ongoing conflict in Uganda it seems that this isn’t enough to bring the communities of victims and perpetrators together. The article highlights that the mato oput process was only made for murder cases and doesn’t address other crimes like sexual assault, property loss, and forced recruitment of child soldiers. While there may changes to existing rituals, like the ‘stepping on the egg’, to welcome home now child soldiers and adults who have returned from the bush, its clear that traditional instruments of justice are not providing adequate measures of justice and reconciliation.

    Lastly, addressing Alice’s case we can see how these traditional justice mechanisms can be limited and constrained by the political and economic atmosphere. Through Baine’s article we see that Alice wants to go through the mato oput ceremony to cleanse her and importantly her newborn son of the cen (evil spirits that haunt her and her son from the period that she was a forced child soldier) however she faces a multitude of obstacles. First of all, village elders want a payment for performing mato oput, this is a major financial strain for Alice and her family. Secondly in the artlicle Baines mentions that mato oput isn’t seen as valid in camp situations, so even if Alice finds the money for the ceremony she may still be shunned in her community. Lastly, I’m not sure if Baines investigate this, but would village elders be reluctant to provide mato oput because of Alice’s gender? Could this also be another reason why Alice hasn’t received mato oput?

    What is clear is that Alice is still deeply troubled by her actions and the conflict that she experienced. She desperately wants to be cleansed of her past actions not only for herself but her newborn son, but due to economic restraints she can’t experience reconciliation. I think this really connects with the other articles on women and reparations. Women face a multitude of obstacles preventing them from receiving reparations and justice, it doesn’t seem that Alice will ever see any reparations. Will she ever get enough money to pay for mato oput? Also since her newborn child suffers from seizures, will this condition always remind her neighbors of the ‘cen’ that she has?

    These are just my thoughts… good luck studying everyone…

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