Ban Ki-Moon battles war victims - on the football pitch (News Feature)
By Henry Wasswa May 31, 2010, 10:29 GMT
Kampala, Uganda - Ugandans were Sunday evening treated to the incongruous sight of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni pulling on strips and taking to the football field.
The aging and overweight Museveni and slight Ki-moon did not set the heather on fire with their athleticism and football skills in the 10 minutes they played alongside war victims, but that was hardly the point.
The War Victims' Day Football Match was a curtain-raiser for the May 31-June 10 International Criminal Court (ICC) Review Conference, scheduled to opened in Kampala on Monday.
Some 1,000 people - victims of conflicts and from which countries the ICC has already indicted individuals for war crimes, including Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya and Sudan - gathered at the Mandela Sports Stadium for the match.
On the pitch, Museveni met some of the sufferers of his army's battles against the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) guerillas, who fought in the northern region for nearly a quarter of a century.
'When the rebels attacked my home one night in July 1990, they killed three of my children,' Victor Awuco, 72, a victim of the LRA rebellion told the German Press Agency dpa at the stadium. 'I feel grateful that the president came to this function, because it reassures us that we will receive attention.'
Another victim of the LRA insurgency, Opio Julius, 32, told dpa he was held captive for 2 years by the LRA, during which time he was beaten and tortured.
Organisers of the match say that it was meant to help war victims forge unity, reconstruct their lives and support the move to bring the perpetrators of the crimes to justice.
'This (the match) is to bridge the gap between the war victims, the president and the ICC delegates,' said Edward Pleeta from the Brussels-based group, No Peace Without Justice, one of the organisers of the function.
The Hague-based tribunal has been issuing indictments against individuals suspected to have committed crimes against civilians in several African states, including Uganda.
The LRA displaced nearly 2 million people; raped, cut off noses, ears and limbs of thousands of its victims; and abducted tens of thousands of children, forcing them to fight or work as sex slaves.
Museveni early this decade asked the ICC to act against LRA leader Joseph Kony for his alleged war crimes. The court in 2005 issued arrest warrants on the rebel leader and four of his commanders for murder, rape, torture, abduction and drafting of juveniles into war.
Kony has never been arrested and two of his indicted officers have since died in the bush.
The LRA fled into the jungles of north-eastern Congo after the failure of the talks that began in 2006 to end the rebellion. They pillaged villages there, killing and abducting people and later spread their terror to parts of the Central African Republic.
The conference is expected to attract up to 2,000 delegates, including UN officials, human rights organisations and diplomats, all from 110 countries representing both observer states and signatories to the ICC statute. It is is the first conference of its kind since the treaty for the tribunal was signed in 1998.
At the conference, delegates are expected to review the performance of the founding Rome Statute and propose and debate a changes in its mandate.
One of the key points to be debated is how to define the crime of aggression so that the court may prosecute leaders for ordering attacks deemed unlawful.