A BRIEF OVERVIEW OF THE COMMISSION
The Justice & Peace Commission is an integral part of the Church’s mission of Christ for its evangelization as a means of promoting peace, justice and reconciliation in the world. It is a most meaningful apostolate particularly in our context of 19 years of violent conflict in Acholiland, where people’s dignity and rights continue to be trampled upon in many different ways.
Programme of activities
Over the years the Commission has undertaken the following activities:
(a) Peace Education (peacebuilding) in the community.
i. Justice & Peace Commission in parishes. Although this is the basis for the Commission’s outreach to the communities through the parishes, the animation and formation of the parish committees have not been effective from the start. In order to take off, the Commission embarked on (b) below which had funding from Catholic Relief Services (CRS). However, with the encouragement and challenge from Fr. John Peter Olum the Parish Priest of Puranga, this was reactivated in November 2004, with Puranga itself. Later on, the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) supported us with 4,200,00/= to conduct peace building workshops in six parishes. The parishes covered were: Anaka, Pabbo, Kitgum Mission, Minakulu-Bobi, Madi Opei and Palabek (+ Atanga Kalongo)
ii. Peace Clubs in Secondary Schools. In June 2003, the Commission initiated peace building programmes in Secondary Schools conducted under “peace clubs”. The goal of the programme is to introduce students to elements of conflict transformation and peace building with emphasis on non-violent options in dealing with or waging conflict. In Gulu Vicariate, seventeen (17) teachers were selected and 17 schools with peace clubs, involving about 1000 students. In Kitgum district (Kitgum Vicariate) there are twelve (12) secondary schools participating in the peace clubs activities. All of them have patrons/matrons include conflict management counseling, the social teaching of the Church, human rights, communication skills and land-mine awareness. It is funded by Catholic Relief Services (CRS)/ Community Resilience & Dialogue (CRD).
(b) Human Rights Education and Para-legal services. This activity is also funded by Catholic Relief Services (CRS)/ Community Resilience & Dialogue (CRD). Each Catholic parish identifies and selects five (5) people who are then trained in the basics of law and serve their respective communities as paralegals. They handle minor cases and issues such as domestic violence, undertake counseling on household issues (child protection, rights & education) among others. Case which are beyond their scope are referred to professional bodies like the Legal Aid Project, the Uganda Human Rights Commission, the Police and Probation Offices. They also monitor and report on violations of human rights in their midst started in October 2001. However, with the expanded fund through the CRD programme channeled through CRS. It expanded to Kitgum in June 2003. in Pader district, the programme is just beginning this month with a training which will run from April 24th to 30th 2005. CRS/CRD funds Gulu and Kitgum, while Hrizon 3000 funds Kitgum and Pader activities. There are thirty (30) paralegals in six parishes of Kitgum and 75 in eleven parishes in Gulu district. Pader will start with thirty (30) in six parishes. It should be noted that the “parishes” refer to “Catholic parishes”, which in most caese cover more than one sub-county.
(c) Reseach, Documentation & Information Dissemination (Newsletter). The main activity of this programme has been the Newsletter, published monthly in English and Lwo. A “ supplement” or two is normally sent during the course of the month to update the readers by e-mail. An editorial team has been formed headed by the Executive Secretary. Fr. Carlos Locoromoi Rodriguez, and comprises of the Programme Manager, Ms Constance Abonyo (Social communication) and the Consultant with the Project Officer as Secretary. This has greatly improved on the form and content of the publication. However, the funding from Horizon 3000 ends in April 2005. we shall be meeting to discuss possible extension on Monday 11th April 2005.
(d) Restorative Justice & Reconciliation process-following up issues accountability through restorative justice and reconciliation within the community and nationally. Here, the justice & peace committees will work to promote and animate community healing and reconciliation, with special focus on re-integration needs.
(e) Networking, Partnership and Collaboration-To make these activities effective. We have established a liaison office in Kampala. Locally, we work with former combatants in two associations they establish by themselves in Gulu: Kica Ber and Youth Empowerment and Information.
Capacity Building (Training). We received a grant of 4,950,400/= from the Irish Embassy to pay for staff training and development. So far, two of our staff, Mr. Ojara Pons (Accounts Assistant) and Mr. Okwonga Robert (Project Officer) attended training at the Uganda Management Institute (UMI) IN data Mnagement & Credit Control and Training of Trainers (TOT), respectively.
Suggestions & Recommendations
-Finance & Administration Officer (FAO)/accountant
-Programme Officer, Kitgum
-Programme Assistant, Pader/Kalongo.
Workplan 2005 – Strengthening and Consolidating the Commission
ConclusionAs it has happened many times during the 19-year old conflict, we are at a delicate moment in which God is asking us to respond to the many challenges present in our midst. It is our sincere hope that our Justice & Peace Commission will be an instrument to transform an environment of violence and injustice into a new future worthy of God’s plan for human beings.