Magazine article The Christian Century

Macleod Baker Ochola II, 84, a Retired Anglican Bishop in Northern Uganda, Is Agitating for Restorative Justice in a Region Where the Wounds of a Brutal War Unleashed by the Lord's Resistance Army Persist

Magazine article The Christian Century

Macleod Baker Ochola II, 84, a Retired Anglican Bishop in Northern Uganda, Is Agitating for Restorative Justice in a Region Where the Wounds of a Brutal War Unleashed by the Lord's Resistance Army Persist

Article excerpt

Macleod Baker Ochola II, 84, a retired Anglican bishop in northern Uganda, is agitating for restorative justice in a region where the wounds of a brutal war unleashed by the Lord's Resistance Army persist.

Ochola has been responding to concerns that the modern court system may not deliver justice for the people who suffered in the complex conflict.

Led by Joseph Kony, the LRA rebels combined African mysticism and Christian fundamentalism in fighting to establish a theocracy. In the 1980s and '90s, the LRA abducted more than 60,000 children, sexually abusing them and forcing them to commit acts of violence against their own communities. By 2005, the LRA had killed more than 100,000 people and displaced 2.5 million.

Ochola buried the dead, including his wife, who was killed by a land mine, and his daughter, who died by suicide after being gang-raped by the rebels. At one point Ochola went into exile.

Yet he has walked with returning child soldiers.

"If there is no process of reconciliation, there is no healing, and if there is no healing there is no restoration and justice," Ochola said. "Healing and restoration brings transformation of life for those affected."

The International Criminal Court in The Hague indicted five top leaders of the rebel group in 2005. In December, the court began the trial of Dominic Ongwen, a 41-yearold former rebel commander who was abducted at age ten. He faces 70 charges, including murder, rape, torture, enslavement, and forced marriage. He is the first former child soldier to appear before the court.

"In the name of God, I deny all these charges," Ongwen said in court.

Ochola has been urging the court to reconsider the circumstances under which children turned commanders were trapped in LRA captivity. Like many other cultural and religious leaders in Uganda, he stresses a traditional justice system called mato oput of the Acholi people of northern Uganda, the community most affected by the LRA conflict. Centered on forgiveness, it involves truth telling, compensation, and a ritual in which food is shared.

"It brings restoration to broken human relationships, transforms lives, and heals the hearts of those involved," Ochola said. …

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