The employees of Amnesty Commission and the thousands of people mostly former combatants who benefit from its activities have reasons to smile following news that it will get a new lease of life.
James Baba Boliba, the Minister of State for Internal Affairs, confirmed to Uganda Radio Network on Tuesday that arrangements were underway to ensure the mandate of the commission is extended beyond May 23, 2013, when its status was due to elapse.
He explained that the ministry was working with the Justice Law and Order Sector to draft a transitional provision with provisions for the future operations of the Amnesty Commission.
The Commission was established in 2000 through the Amnesty Act, with a mandate to facilitate forgiveness of armed combatants as a means of encouraging a peaceful end to the many armed rebellions that existed in the country.
Initially set to operate for six months, the commission has had its duration extended many times for a six months interval until in 2006 when the Act was amended to provide for two year duration. Last year, the Minister of Internal Affairs opted not to renew Part II of the Act that had provision for issuing pardon to individuals who denounced their participation in armed struggle against the present regime since January 1986.
The move left only three parts of the Amnesty Act in operation including part III, which governs the operation of the Commission raising anxiety of a possible lapse of the entire organization. However, Baba maintained that there is yet need for the Commission to remain in existence to carry out its functions.
Part III of the Amnesty Act establishes the Amnesty Commission and provides for its functions, which include monitoring programs of demobilisation, reintegration and resettlement of the former combatants who have been granted amnesty.
Other functions of the commission are: promoting dialogue and reconciliation in the communities where the former combatants are resettled.
Moses Drako, the spokesperson of the Commission told Uganda Radio Network that about 26,300 former combatants who denounced rebellion have been granted amnesty and resettled in their communities the last 12 years that the Amnesty Act was in operation.
A lapse of the entire Amnesty Act would have led to the closure of the commission and an abandonment of reintegration programs targeting the former combatants and their communities.
Different parts of Uganda experienced rebellion against the current regime since January 1986 when it assumed power. Some of the rebel groups include the National Liberation of Uganda, which operated from the late 1980’s until the early 1990’s and later on the Allied Democratic Front (ADF), which existed from 1996 until around 2002. Others were Force Obote Back Again, Uganda People’s Army and the Lord’s Resistance Army.