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Accepted Paper:

Growing up on bitter eggshells: child soldiers in Northern Uganda  
Iris Marchand (University of Edinburgh)

Paper short abstract:

Do child soldiers need to display regret or apologise for atrocious crimes they committed during a war in which they were both perpetrator and victim? This paper explores this question, with ethnographic examples from three child soldiers in Northern Uganda in 2005.

Paper long abstract:

Violent conflicts that involve murder, torture, maiming bodies, and psychological manipulation, create categories of victims and perpetrators. Yet victims and perpetrators cannot always be easily distinguished. This paper reflects upon the lives of three child soldiers in Northern Uganda during the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army) conflict, based on ethnographic fieldwork in 2005. In 2005 the International Criminal Court (ICC) listed the LRA war as a case of international concern and responsibility. The ICC intervention met with mixed levels of appreciation. The Acholi people have their own justice system, based on confession and forgiveness (mato oput). The devastating atrocities and injustices committed during the war would not be reconciled by locking up Kony and his companions thousands of miles away in a cell in The Hague. Mato oput is about apology and regret, directly from perpetrator to victim, in a communal ritual including the stepping on an egg and drinking from a bitter root. Yet the definition of perpetrator and victim was blurred during the LRA conflict. This paper asks who or what is to be held accountable for the traumatic transformation of children growing up in this warzone, forcefully educated to kill, maim, rape, loot, and destroy. Despite the crimes against humanity they are now asked to say sorry for, these children were entangled in a complex system of power politics. This paper seeks to critically discuss the meaning of ‘regret’ in this context, and whether or not an apology for their actions should be expected from former child soldiers.

Panel Mora06b
Retrospective regrets and contemporary apologies II
  Session 1 Wednesday 31 March, 2021, -